Paternity cases are initiated by filing a Petition to Establish Paternity, Decision-Making, Parenting Time, Child Support, and Back Child Support, if applicable. This type of an action is filed when an unmarried couple has a child. These types of cases are often almost as complicated as divorce cases. They involve the presentation of evidence that allows the court to determine whether the parties can jointly make decisions together and if not which party is better suited to be the decision-maker. These cases also involve the determination of an appropriate schedule for sharing time with the child. Factors that often come into play include the age of the child, whether one party has been the primary caretaker of the child, work schedules, distance that the parties live from each other and other logistical issues. My experience is that Courts begin with the assumption that equal time is in the best interests of the child. The Court then looks at the factors detailed above in determining what type of schedule is best for the child. Currently the schedule in vogue is the two – five – five – two schedule where one parent has Monday and Tuesday, the other parent has Wednesday and Thursday, and the weekend period is alternated.
Child support is based upon a formula which takes into account the incomes of the parties, the costs of such things as Health Insurance and Child Care Costs as well as the Parenting Time Schedule. This calculation is often complicated by parents who are self-employed or working at less than capacity. An experienced attorney is necessary in such situations to determine accurate incomes of the parties and as a result, a fair child support award.
Back child support may be an issue as well. Generally, the Court will go back to the birth of the child or the financial separation of the parties, whichever occurs later and begin child support effective at that time. However, the Court generally will not go earlier than 3 years prior to the filing of the petition. That often results in what we call a Child Support Arrearage amount. Generally, the Court will determine the amount of the arrearages and then set a monthly payment amount in excess of the actual child support, in order that the paying party can pay back the arrearages.
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