How Do I Establish Child Custody & Support If I Was Never Married to the Other Parent?
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, Kansas ranks 33rd in births to unmarried mothers among states in the U.S. Approximately 36.4 percent of children in Kansas are born out of wedlock. Unfortunately, never being married to the other parent of your child can bring about some legal legwork if you plan to pursue child support or custody.
If you're trying to establish a child support or custody arrangement but were never married to the other parent, consulting with a knowledgeable Kansas child custody attorney is crucial for proper guidance. Attorney Mark Jeffers can fight to protect your child custody and support rights and offer you the experienced legal guidance and advocacy you need. Jeffers Law Office is proud to serve clients throughout Overland Park, Olathe, Lenexa, Shawnee, Prairie Village and Leawood, Kansas as well as throughout Johnson, Wyandotte, Miami, and Leavenworth Counties. Contact him today for a free consultation.
Understanding Rights for Unmarried Parents in Kansas
When a child is born to an unmarried mother in Kansas, she has sole custodianship. However, establishing paternity is the first step to enable the court to make orders about child support and parenting time. Like every child custody decision, the court will prioritize the child's welfare and best interest. Kansas courts believe that the involvement of both parents will be beneficial to the child.
Kansas Statutes Annotated (K.S.A.) 23-2201 through 23-2225 is the Kansas Parentage Act and governs establishing paternity for unmarried parents in Kansas. Paternity issues may arise when:
- A child is born to unmarried parents and the mother is seeking child support
- A child is born to unmarried parents and the state is seeking past due or current child support or reimbursement for medical bills
- A child is born to unmarried parents and the father is seeking to prove he’s the biological father so as to establish his parenting rights and responsibilities
Furthermore, the law places the legal obligations of care, shelter, and support on a child’s legal parents. As an unmarried mother, establishing paternity is required to get the other parent to participate in raising the child. Paternity may be established voluntarily or involuntarily.
Paternity may be established voluntarily when both parents agree that the father is the biological father. This requires both parents to sign and file a "Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP)" form with the state registrar of vital statistics. A VAP form is generally provided by the hospital when the baby is born. Once this is done, the father’s name will appear on the child’s birth certificate.
Involuntarily paternity involves establishing paternity through the judicial process. Here, paternity may be “forced,” through a court order, upon the father. A paternity suit or petition may be brought forward by the mother, the child, a government official, or anyone acting on the child’s behalf, against the alleged father, before the child’s 21st birthday. Taking a DNA test may be necessary to confirm paternity in disputed cases.
Where paternity is unknown or denied, the court will order genetic tests. The law specifies that “If any party refuses to submit to the tests, the court may resolve the question of paternity against the party or enforce its order if the rights of others and the interests of justice so require. The tests shall be made by experts qualified as genetic examiners who shall be appointed by the court.”
Why Establishing Paternity is Important
Generally, the issue of paternity stems from the desire to establish a parenting time agreement or establish child support. However, there are many benefits that come from paternity determination including:
- The child is able to establish a relationship with both parents; learn about the history of the family; gain access to medical insurance; have access to personal information such as medical history and health risks; establish rights to inherit the father's estate; and be able to sue for the father's death or harm to the father.
- The mother is able to share parental responsibilities and custody with the father as well as share the costs of raising the child with the father.
- The father is able to establish a relationship with the child, participate in their child's life, request custody or parenting time, and show how much they care for their child.
Once paternity is established, the parent and child relationship extends equally to every child and to every parent, regardless of the marital status of the parents.
Hiring a Family Law Attorney
Establishing the paternity of a child born to unmarried parents can be complicated. Issues such as filing a paternity acknowledgment with the Kansas court, getting the other parent to pay child support, or negotiating a parenting agreement with the other parent can make the entire process difficult and overwhelming. This is why consulting with a knowledgeable Kansas divorce attorney is important for comprehensive guidance.
Attorney Mark Jeffers had dedicated his career to providing experienced and comprehensive legal services to unmarried parents in child custody and support matters. Mark will work with all parties involved to negotiate a fair parenting agreement, including child custody, support, parental responsibility, and parenting time.
As your legal counsel, he will help you understand your options and provide you with the detailed guidance you need to make crucial decisions concerning your child's future and well-being. Also, he can help you file a paternity action with the Kansas court and offer you the compassionate representation you need.
Call Jeffers Law Office today to schedule a free initial telephone consultation with an experienced Kansas child custody attorney. Attorney Mark Jeffers proudly serves clients throughout Overland Park, Shawnee, Lenexa, Prairie Village, Olathe, and Leawood, Kansas as well as throughout Johnson, Wyandotte, Miami, and Leavenworth Counties.