You can't hold the hand of a rock & roll man...
January 12, 2009 8:16 PM   Subscribe

We have a kid. We never married. We've just broken up. Now what?

My boyfriend and I recently broke up. We have a son. My now-ex-boyfriend is the father of our son and his name is on the birth certificate. Paternity is not in question, but I've received some informal legal advice that suggests that I should file a paternity action anyway. I have Googled until I can Google no more. I have read about the Kansas Parentage Act but because the paternity is not being contested I don't understand what value there would be in filing a paternity act. My ideal end result would be for 50/50 custody between both of us parents with no child support necessary. Does this really need to go to the courts? Why can't we continue just sharing our son as we request visitation from the other parent? Do I need to put in writing that 50/50 visitation with no support is what is being requested?

tl;dr: Do I need to file a paternity action, and if so, how do I do that? (By which I mean what form do I fill out and where can I find said form?).

We all reside in the state of Kansas, if that hasn't already been made obvious. And of course I know that you are not a lawyer, or at least are not MY lawyer, and no responses are to be considered legal advice, yada yada...
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Find the closest in-state law school to you and then call their legal clinic to see if they have a family law clinic.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:39 PM on January 12, 2009

I am in Illinois. I have a sixteen year old son. We lived together til he was 2 years old and were never married. We have no formal agreement.
They probably told you to file so that you can collect child support. That's what they tell every single mother. You don't have to go to court for anything if you two get along and have an informal agreement. There are many things to decide though...
One thing that gets argued out is who will claim the child as a deduction on tax returns as you cannot both claim the child. Also who will pay what part of medical, dental, clothing and educational expenses?
If you get along fine and have no quarrels, you need no agreement.
posted by lee at 9:09 PM on January 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

Following on Ironmouth's suggestion, if you're in Shawnee County, Washburn Law School has a family law clinic, but you have to be a county resident to get services there. The Law School at the University of Kansas doesn't have a family law clinic, or any other clinics that sound applicable.
posted by donnagirl at 9:12 PM on January 12, 2009

If and what to file is really only part of the issue.

At this time you may have an amicable agreement and everything will be fine, but things change. It could be for any number of reasons, you might have another child and feel that your first should spend more time with their sibling than with their other single parent, your ex might move, or marry someone really awful. It could end up before a court even with the best of intentions.

"The System", even with all of its faults, is really just a way of documenting what is going on at each stage of both of you parenting your child. It provides a basis for courts deciding difficult issues when/if all of that good will breaks down.

While the courts sometimes do something actually "unfair" it has been my personal experience that the facts win the day in most custody/parenting cases. simply having a written, filed parenting plan protects both parents by leaving a clear record of what each of them have been doing to parent the child from the beginning. It can even be written in a super friendly and positive way to keep that good will going!
posted by ijustwantyourhalf at 9:24 PM on January 12, 2009 [5 favorites]

Yes, people have informal agreements all the time. You might want to sit down with a family lawyer/mediator or else read a whole lotta books on shared custody to craft a written agreement you both think is fair. Things like: wills/inheritance, who custody of the child goes to in case both parents die, expectations of financial support for post-secondary education, who is responsible for extracurricular expenses, daycare costs, whether either parent can move the child so the parent can pursue a distant job or education, health costs (both insurance and out of pocket), how holidays/birthdays are divided, if custody stops being 50/50 voluntarily by one parent (perhaps because they have a family with someone else) then will there be child support - if so, how much? It is great that you are being so amicable but most parents need clear guidelines to avoid hurt feelings and unrealistic expectations down the road.
You will need written documentation from the other parent for international travel and your child's school may request a legal custody agreement if you want only one parent to have the ability to remove the child from school without informing the other parent.
posted by saucysault at 9:29 PM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Things sound agreeable b/w the two of you now- but you really should nail down your parenting/ custody agreements in the courts- this does not mean "going to court" and having a battle, it means establishing paternity and state of residency and figuring how you will handle situations like when rock & roll man wants to move to another state and take DS with him.

You both have legal rights as parents- you both should learn them and get recognition from the state to protect yourselves and, more importantly, your son from the chaos that can ensue if you don't work well together in the future.

You might also consider what kind of custody arrangement is developmentally appropriate for DS- is he an infant? Are you his primary care giver? 50/50 custody is not necessarily the best arrangement for a baby- they need the stability of a home. 50/50 later on shouldn't be a problem- but for babies it's very disruptive...

My two cents having gone through this... Talk to a lawyer.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 9:33 PM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

One key thing about support: your son may not be expensive yet, but he will be soon -- more expensive than you can possibly imagine. Whoever is writing the checks on the front line (and it will probably be you), has an absolute right to have the other parent share in those expenses. You aren't obliged to chase your ex for every penny in a 21-year blood match, but at the same time you need to protect yourself and your son from the possibility that your ex might shirk a contribution reasonably proportionate to his income and your son's needs.
posted by MattD at 9:37 PM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Having gone through this as the kid and as a loving observer:

No matter how well you guys are getting along now, and even if you will get along together for the rest of your lives, getting the official paperwork out of the way will mean never having to worry about whatever your personal worst case scenario would be if some element was suddenly contested or ignored.

And not just by either of you - having all of this confirmed means an easier time handling school emergencies, medical care, and any official government business that may need tending.

Since the two of you acknowledge shared responsibility and have worked out an agreement, filing it with the court is more likely to prevent complication than increase it (beyond the initial flurry of activity to get it done, of course).

Whatever you decide to do, good luck to all of you.
posted by batmonkey at 10:02 PM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

I had a client once who had an amicable arrangement with the father that fell apart and since she had never established custody in court she had no recourse when the father absconded with the child except to file for a custody hearing, which in Philly takes at least 90 days. So realize that if you haven't established custody and one day dad decides to not give your kid back neither the police nor child welfare will be able to do anything for you until custody is established in court.
posted by The Straightener at 6:23 AM on January 13, 2009

Since you have such an amicable arrangement, this is the perfect time to make it all official. You want to share 50-50. Ok, agree on what that means right now, while you're both still feeling rational and reasonable. Think about potential future circumstances and potential future unreasonableness: what if one of you moves? what if one of you has a partner the other doesn't like? what if one of you starts working 80 hours a week? who's going to pay for hockey? (note that while you can agree on 50/50, keeping a list of child-related expenses and figuring out who paid what and how much who owes whom would be a pain. Besides, what happens when your boyfriend decides your son needs a new and you're on the hook for half?)

Take all this to your respective lawyers. You will each have your own to make sure there's nothing you've missed. Have them write up your agreement in legalese and get it all certified and filed however that is done where you are. It may not need to involve going to court.

If you wait until you have an issue to put things in writing, then you're going to be negotiating in a situation where you're both likely to be feeling threatened and defensive.

posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:53 AM on January 13, 2009

Get everything in writing, to protect all three of you. A situation that's amicable and mutually agreeable won't necessarily be so in six months/a year/five years. He might develop a drug problem. You might get into a relationship with an abusive partner. You might wind up stuck with a bunch of medical bills he refuses to help with. Neither of you know what's going to happen in the future, and you owe it to your kid to make sure there's as little uncertainty as possible.

If you're both on the same page as far as 50/50 custody and no child support, that's fantastic. That should make it very easy and quick to get a legal agreement in writing that you can revisit later if things change.
posted by EarBucket at 11:18 AM on January 13, 2009

Why can't we continue just sharing our son as we request visitation from the other parent? Do I need to put in writing that 50/50 visitation with no support is what is being requested?

Someone wanders into a bank, looking for a 10 year mortgage. Would you think it wise, for either the bank or the mortgage-seeker, to come to a hand-shake agreement with no concrete terms expressed either verbally or in writing?

That's sort of what the two of you are doing, in terms of custody and child-care expenses, with your hazy "share our son as we request visitation" plan. Except it's a mortgage that will last at least until your son is 18, or longer if he goes to college.

As far as the "with no support" part, you'll have to ask a lawyer. You may or may not be allowed to waive that.
posted by CKmtl at 11:21 AM on January 13, 2009

Please get the details in writing while you are still getting along to protect you and your child. All it takes is for either party to get involved in a new relationship and the dynamics will change - maybe for the better but quite possibly the worse.
posted by justlisa at 5:56 PM on January 13, 2009

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