Must paternity be established before child support attaches?

A pregnancy for an unmarried couple may raise questions about child support. In most cases, an expecting mother may want assurances that the father will contribute his fair share toward the expenses of raising the child. In Massachusetts, there are mandatory child support guidelines. An attorney that focuses on family law issues can provide guidance on how the complicated formula might apply in a specific client’s situation.

The process starts with gathering data about each parent’s income and medial insurance premiums. Other variables include the number of children, the expected costs of childcare and education, and any extracurricular activities. A court generally presumes that a child should benefit from each parent’s financial situation, which means that additional child support might be ordered if the parents can afford it.

Of course, the above discussion assumes that paternity was established. The general rule is that the legal mother and legal father have a financial obligation to a minor child. In a recent letter to a columnist, however, a reader sought advice on how her son should respond to news that his estranged former girlfriend was pregnant. Regarding parentage, the girlfriend had apparently told doctors that the father of her baby was dead.

The columnist advised that the boyfriend should legally establish paternity to the extent he desired to have a relationship or any legal rights with the child. Notably, paternity can be established at any time in a child’s life. Without a paternity test, a child born outside of marriage will not have a legal father.

Source: Washington Post, “Ask Amy: Pregnant mom denies paternity; should dad also deny?” Amy Dickinson, June 20, 2016