Child Custody and Visitation – What to Know Before Filing a Paternity Lawsuit


Before deciding whether or not to file a paternity lawsuit, single mothers should first be aware of the impact this might have on child support, custody and visitation rights. As a single mother you are entitled to make any and all decisions regarding your child’s health, education and upbringing. For some women this can be an overwhelming task. For many others it is a blessing. Where are you in this?

Before you take a stand regarding this paternal-child relationship issue, you should know that once a man is legally determined to be the father of your child, he must pay child support for that child. Also, he will be entitled to custody and visitation rights. How exactly will this affect you?

Having your child’s father paternity voluntarily acknowledged or court ordered will affect the way you will be able to relate to your child in several ways. Some of these might be considered beneficial, others not. For most single mothers, having your child’s father paternity established presents the advantage that he will have to contribute financially to the child’s care. Child support payments will be determined by the court, after considering the father’s net income and the number of children he has. Under child support the court may require the father to pay health insurance for the child if he has the resources to do so. He might also be ordered to contribute to the child’s education and after school care. Legal paternity allows your child to inherit from his father and to receive Social Security benefits if he dies or becomes disabled. For many single mothers these are enough reasons to file a paternity law suit.

Like everything else in life, this token has another face. There is a price to pay for child support: you will have to share your child’s custody with the father and allow visitations. For some women this could be too much of a high a price to pay.

Paternity entitles your child’s father all the same parenting rights that you have. He will be entitled to have equal physical possession, control and access to your child. He will have the right to voice his opinion when making major decisions regarding the child’s health, religion, education and safety. He will be allowed to oppose, object or condition your preferences regarding any of these matters. The only way you can prevent this is to go to court to request exclusive custody of your child. If the father opposes, you will have to fight your case in court. Child custody cases can be expensive and stressful. Depending on your child’s age, these court battles can also have an emotional impact on your child.

All child custody cases are considered upon the premise that the father and the mother should have equal parenting rights. To obtain exclusive custody, you as the petitioner, will have to convince the court that your child will not benefit from relating to the father. To do this you must present evidence of the father’s neglect, abuse or violence against the child. In absence of any of these, the premise that both parents should have custody of the child will prevail and you will have to share your child’s custody with the father. Once a court makes a determination in favor of shared custody, you and your child’s father will be entitled to equal time with your child.

If you and the father of your child cannot come up with an agreeable visitation schedule, then the court will make one for you. You will be required by law to comply with the court’s order. If you fail to provide the child for the father’s visit, you have directly violated a court order. If this happens, you can be found in contempt of court, and will have to explain yourself to the judge. Being in contempt of court can also lead to fines and/or time in jail. Again, before considering filing a paternity lawsuit, it would be wise to consider the impact of your decision wholeheartedly.