Understanding and Advocating For Your Rights in a Paternity Action
Juvenile paternity matters are matters where the parties were never married but they have a child or children together. In these cases, paternity must be established in order to enforce rights of child support, custody and parenting time. The presumption of paternity is raised by a paternity affidavit signed at the hospital or DNA test. Once the presumption of paternity has been raised, the parties can then seek an order establishing legal paternity (if not established by Affidavit), parenting time, legal custody rights, and child support.
Paternity issues can arise at birth or even after a child’s parents spend years living together but have found themselves in a situation where their informal arrangements are no longer workable. Parenting time is the schedule that determines which party the children are staying with and for how long. Should the parties be unable to come up with a schedule themselves, the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines provide a starting point for a schedule. The Guidelines also provide age-appropriate schedules, as infants and toddlers experience time differently from older children. Holidays are detailed in the Guidelines, ensuring that in a two-year cycle, the parties get to experience the major holidays with the child.
Legal custody is the decision-making factor. Legal custody can be “joint” or it can be “sole.” If it is joint, the parties come together to determine the major issues in the child’s life, including religious upbringing, medical decisions, and academic/education matters. If a parent has sole legal custody, then only that parent makes these decisions. In most cases, both parties are entitled to the child’s academic information, such as viewing grade cards and attending parent-teacher conferences, and medical information, including going to doctor’s visits with the child and reviewing the medical file. This is true for either joint or sole legal custody.
Child support is a mathematical calculation that depends mainly on the parties’ gross income, as well as weekly health insurance premiums paid for the children, child-care expenses, and overnights for the non-custodial parent. Other factors considered include prior-born and subsequently-born children, as well as whether spousal maintenance is paid.
Whether your situation is one in which the child is a newborn, an older child, or an on-going matter, we can help you establish your rights. If the parties are able and open to discussion, these matters can be settled through an agreement. An agreement requires little-to-no time spent in court. Often, child-related matters are sent to mediation, where settlement can also be a possibility. A neutral third-party attorney helps facilitate the mediation to see if the parties can find common ground and come to an agreement on how to handle their child-related matters. In the event that an agreement cannot be reached or mediation is unsuccessful, we are ready to take try your case at court.