The policy behind child support payments comes from the idea that both parents have a responsibility to care for their child. When both parents live with their children, the law presumes they are providing their children with food, clothing, shelter and their other needs, but if the parents don’t live together because they have divorced, or were never married, the law requires the non-custodial parent to provide funds to care for each child.
While this might seem like a personal matter, the state has an interest in all children getting the care they need. When a parent fails to provide for a child, the state must step in to provide public benefits to the child. Therefore, it’s in the state’s interest to make sure that parents are living up to their child support obligations.
Related to this idea is a more controversial topic: paternity.
When a woman has a baby while married, the law assumes that her husband is the father of the child. Should this married couple divorce, and the woman become the primary custodial parent for the child, her ex-husband will be ordered to pay child support.
When a woman has a baby while she is not married, the state must know the father of the child in order to know who is responsible for child support. For this, the state needs to establish paternity.
When unmarried parents agree on paternity, they can establish paternity by signing legal forms. Otherwise, the court has to determine paternity through a legal action. It may require genetic testing.
It’s important to note that either parent may request testing to establish paternity, and that paternity carries child custody rights as well as child support responsibilities. In some cases, a mother wants to establish paternity in order to hold the father responsible for child support. In others, a father wants to establish paternity in order to request visitation rights. Both men and women can seek out help from a family law attorney for their questions about establishing paternity.