Unmarried Parents’ Child Support Obligations

Having a child out of wedlock does not absolve you of paying child support to the parent raising the child. The custodial parent can go to family court and request that the order for child support be enacted. It makes no difference that you were never actually married, only that you are the declared parent of the child.

Child support is an amount of money ordered by the court to be paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent for a period of time, usually until the state’s age of majority. In most states that age is 18 unless the child gets married, enters the military, or becomes an emancipated minor. 

What is an Emancipated Minor?

A minor that feels he or she can be financially independent can go to court to request that the parents not be legally responsible for the minor in any way. A minor may want to become emancipated for a number of reasons, including: 

  • Married under the age of 18
  • Join the military
  • Financially able to support themselves
  • Abusive home

Parental Status Established

The court will only issue a child support order after parental status has been verified. This can be done by either the father acknowledging he is the parent of the child or the biological father has been proven through a paternity action. 

Ways Paternity is Established

Establishing paternity is especially important if the parents were never married and now one parent is seeking child support from the other parent. If the parents are clear as to the identity of the father, they both can sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity and submit it to the applicable state agency. This form lets the father’s name appear on the birth certificate. Even without this form, a family law attorney can help establish the father’s rights in paternity at any time after the birth of the child by creating an agreement that states the father’s identity.

Enforcing Child Support Once Paternity Has Been Established

If paternity has been established, enforcing child support works the same way as in a divorce case. Failure to pay child support is against the law and the state agency can enforce the payment of child support through a number of means:

  • Amount garnished from the parent responsible for the support and payments sent to the custodial parent
  • Property seized and sold to pay child support
  • Federal and state tax refunds intercepted
  • Non-paying parent held in contempt of court for disobeying child support order — may result in some jail time

There has to be an order in place before any action to enforce the child support order can proceed.

Contact an Attorney 

Do you have a child and are seeking to get child support from the father? Are you a father asked to pay child support and want to know your rights? A family law attorney that has experience in child support issues can discuss your situation and help you understand your rights and responsibilities concerning child support. A court order to pay child support is a legally binding commitment. Contact a lawyer, like a child support lawyer in Gig Harbor, WA from Robinson & Hadeed Family Law, if you have questions or concerns about this obligation.