The first step for a father seeking custody of a child is to determine paternity. Paternity is a legal recognition of a father. If the parents of a child are married at the time of the child’s birth, the mother’s husband is presumed to be a legal father of the child. If the parents are unmarried at the time of the child’s birth, paternity can be established by an affidavit of parentage and/or initiating a court proceeding. Paternity cases must be filed in the Circuit Court where the mother of child lives or if the mother is living out-of-state, the case is filed in the county where the father resides.
In order to establish paternity by court action, the case must be brought under one of several state laws, most often: the Paternity Act or the Revocation of Paternity Act. If another man has already acknowledged paternity, the case will be brought under the Revocation of Paternity Act, in which the plaintiff/alleged father will request that the court revoke the parental rights of the acknowledged father and enter an order establishing the plaintiff’s paternity rights. After filing fees are paid, the case filed, and other party served with the complaint and summons, the court may order genetic testing.
After paternity is established, the court will make custody, support, and parenting time determinations. If the parties are not in agreement as to these issues, the Friend of the Court may assist in this process. Typically, the court will enter a temporary order before making final determinations on these issues. The default is joint legal and physical custody, with the non-custodial parent awarded parenting time and ordered to pay child support. There are numerous factors that will play into the court’s decision.
If you’d like help in navigating the processes of paternity and child custody, call Great Lakes Legal today!