Some of the most highly charged and emotional issues in San Diego arise in paternity cases. Even though modern marriages are ending in record numbers, unmarried parents are even more likely to live apart. There are three basic issues addressed in all paternity cases: custody, support and visitation. The San Diego Superior Court Judge will make orders for all three issues if an agreement is not reached.
Most paternity cases are resolved either by agreement or by legal action in San Diego. The parents can sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity at most prenatal clinics, hospitals, birthing centers and county offices. This form will legally establish the identity of the child’s parents, but it won’t resolve issues of custody, support and visitation.
Legal actions are typically considered adversarial in nature. Since the initial focus of most paternity actions is the collection of child support payments, disputes can arise easily and intensify quickly.
The best approach to resolving your paternity case may rest upon the nature of any unanswered questions. If a man knows he isn’t the child’s father, signing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity could be a huge legal mistake. On the other hand, if DNA testing has already confirmed fatherhood, denial isn’t an option and the only procedure is to deal with the parenting plan and any support issues.
The amount of child support to be paid is determined by standard guidelines and is based upon the income of the parents as well as other guideline factors such as child support ordered from another relationship, spousal support ordered to be paid from another relationship, mandatory retirement, union dues, health insurance, tax filing status, income from all sources, percentage of time share, tax filing status and others . There isn’t much room for negotiating facts however issue spotting, such as a request to deviate from child support guidelines if you are legally obligated to support another child, is very important. If income or resources fluctuate, or the other party is being less than forthcoming about their income, then this may become a significant issue.
In most cases, visitation guidelines follow a standard model designed to address common questions: every other weekend and one weekday evening with all off track school time and holidays divided equally or some other model. As a general rule, neither parent can exercise unreasonable control over the other parent’s visitation time. One common dispute arises when the other parent says, “I don’t want the new girlfriend/boyfriend around my child.” Unless the new significant other poses a specific danger, such as a convicted child molester, the court probably won’t allow that condition to be imposed.
In some cases, a request for support triggers a demand for custody. It is important to seriously consider what is best for your child before initiating a custody battle. Unfortunately, there is an inverse relationship between the percentage of custody and visitation and the amount of child support. This means that the payor has a financial incentive to increase the timeshare and the payee has a financial incentive to decrease the time share. This is totally adverse and leads to litigation.
The Family Court decides custody questions according to the best interest of the child however there is now a department in DCSS Court which also hears custody and visitation issues. In considering alternatives, the court looks at a number of factors under the “best interests” test including continuing and frequent contact, bonding and stability among others. If the parents are able to maintain a cordial relationship for the child’s benefit, joint custody may provide a solution.
By approaching paternity questions in accord with the law, you can try and minimize hard feelings, legal expense and future heartbreak. The advice of a knowledgeable San Diego divorce attorney can help you avoid legal pitfalls and protect your rights while meeting your responsibilities as a parent. For a free initial consultation, call our office at 858-312-8500 or contact us online.