Resolving child support and paternity matters is crucial for both the parents and the child involved. Our lawyers build customized plans for every client.
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From Alexandra’s interview for the Masters of Family Law series on ReelLawyers.com
The value and importance of two identified parents connected to a child’s life cannot be overstated by those that know child development. Verifying and establishing parent-child relationships is a priority within the statutes of family law, even when one parent has not stepped up to claim their parentage, their rights to access and emotionally support the child, or their responsibilities to financially support the child.
In addition to emotional support, children need financial support. When the parents are not together, deciding and enforcing the split of high costs for education, health care, childcare, and much more is a daunting task. A well-crafted child support obligation, however, can provide answers to many of the financial questions divorced or separated parents may have and help avoid conflicts in the future.
For many unwed parents, before financial support can be awarded, the child’s parentage, or paternity, needs to be verified. The implications and accusations that can happen during this process cause many frustrated parents to lose sight of the ultimate goal – doing what is in the child’s best interest.
The attorneys at Atticus Family Law have extensive experience negotiating paternity and child support cases. They know how to separate the emotions from the facts, and they build a customized strategy around each client’s needs and goals. If you are dealing with a paternity or child support claim, contact our office to schedule a consultation and discuss your case.
Child support is the money paid by one parent to another to fund the care and support of their children while in that other parent’s care. Child support is paid by the parent who does not have physical custody of the children; if parents share equal custody, some degree of support is paid by the parent with the higher income.
“Child support” is the total of up to three types of supported needs: basic support, medical support, and childcare support, if applicable. Under Minnesota law, basic support is the payments that cover the cost of housing, food, clothing, education, etc. Medical support contributes to the cost of health and dental insurance as well as the costs of medical and dental care. Childcare support helps with childcare costs while the custodial parent is at work or school. All of these payments are intended to ensure that the child is financially supported by both parents.
More than half of the time, the amount ordered is “guideline support,” which is the amount specified by the guidelines within the statute. While these calculations are helpful, occasionally, they do not result in a support plan that adequately addresses the needs of the parents and children. Thus, within negotiations, there are opportunities to justify a deviation, be it up or down, from guideline support to suit the facts of each case. An experienced attorney can help you to be sure that all of your child’s financial needs are taken into account by any proposed monthly support amount.
As incomes and other facts change, child support orders may need to be modified. It is important to pursue a modification as soon as the changes occur, as child support cannot be modified retroactively. It must be shown to be “a substantial change in circumstances” and that “the change has rendered the existing order unreasonable and unfair.” If these two criteria are met, there may be grounds to update the child support order.
Paternity matters can be both delicate and tense. The allegations made around claims that someone is the father, or someone is not the father, are highly emotional and hurtful. Further, for unplanned children born out of wedlock, the consequences of the financial obligations to support that child can be a painful hardship.
Often Atticus Family Law is contacted by the parents of young men, whether still in high school or perhaps around 18 to 20 years old, who have been served with paternity pleadings. These clients and their families are wise: They know they want to handle this deftly. If indeed the young man is the paternal father, they want to start off on the right foot. That includes not offending the mother and setting the stage to be an active part of the child’s life. But they know they have to verify paternity. When representing young men in paternity and support actions, we do all the talking for them. This helps them avoid putting their foot in their mouth and also allows us to direct the arguments and outcomes in a way that is beneficial to them.
When handling any paternity case, our first step is to educate the client on their rights and legal options. We discuss with them the presumptions under the law for paternity and the opportunity to seek DNA testing. We also discuss what is likely to come next, assuming that the DNA test verifies the man’s paternity.
We then walk our client through the various types of child support and how they could factor into the client’s agreement. And we talk about the prospect that the child support is retroactive to the child’s birth up to 24 months; And then we talk about how we go about discussing, negotiating, and settling on these numbers – some amounts of money owed can be waived, some can be negotiated downward, and some are hard to argue with.
We attend all the hearings with our client, making sure they’re prepared for each hearing and that they are fully debriefed after each hearing. We want to make sure we get a fair and equitable result from the entire proceeding, and the client’s rights are respected.
Resolving issues of child support and paternity in a fair and timely manner is not just a benefit to the parents, it’s an important step in establishing a secure future for your child. With decades of family law experience, the attorneys of Atticus Family Law can help you ensure that your child is being financially supported by both parents so that their daily needs are met. To schedule a consultation regarding your case, call our office or complete our online contact form to get started.
Over the years we have represented numerous clients like Trevor* in establishing paternity, custody, and parenting time rights. When Trevor had come to us, he was a single man in his late 20’s. His ex-girlfriend recently gave birth to a son; they had several fights prior to the child’s birth and a big one recently. The relationship was over, and he was worried.
He wanted to establish his father’s rights to his son. He had grown up without a father and urgently wanted a life for his son that he never had. But his ex was not letting him see the newborn. He was pretty sure about paternity, but she had told him that his name wasn’t on the birth certificate. And she kept saying that he didn’t know how to care for a baby.
He also wanted to make sure his son’s mother had the money she needed for diapers, food, and other needs, but he was afraid. He made decent money but he had heard stories of guys turning over their whole paychecks for child support, medical insurance, and childcare. He didn’t want this court thing to go sideways, leaving him with no rights and no money.
Two weeks after hiring AFL, we commenced Trevor’s paternity/custody/parenting time action by serving his ex-girlfriend and filing the petition with the district court.
The paternity test verified that Trevor was the child’s father. Though, it hardly seemed necessary: at his first visit Trevor immediately recognized the father-son resemblance. There was no doubt that the child was Trevor’s son.
At the next hearing, the court order required Trevor’s ex-girlfriend to complete a parenting education course: this was her first child and thus the judge wanted her to learn how to care for children as they developed. Trevor was excluded from the court order because months earlier we had him complete a parenting class at a local community college.
Trevor was awarded joint legal custody with his ex-girlfriend, meaning he had a say in the important legal, medical, educational, and religious upbringing decisions of his son’s life. The paternity order was issued, which included an amendment of the birth certificate to list Trevor as the father. The parenting time schedule included future increases as his son matured out of infancy. And despite the child support amount, Trevor could afford a place of his own for father-son time.
I sit down with each client after the final order. Trevor and I met in my office, both hoping this would be our last official encounter. We reviewed what was discussed in that first meeting, and his goals and major concerns going forward. We talked about how his parenting time will change in the future and we went over child support and I gave him some pointers to look out for. Before we parted ways, I made sure that Trevor knows I’d still be available in the months and years ahead to answer any questions he might have. It’s important to me to make sure no client walks away from their custody case feeling like they are alone – they can always pick up the phone and call me.
Being a custody attorney has its challenges, but there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than help people through this important life transition. If you need help with a family law issue, please don’t hesitate to call me – or send a request online and we’ll reach out to you.
Don’t get discouraged. We’re here for you, and we’ll be with you through the entire process.
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