It is important for all unwed parents to establish legal paternity, develop a parenting plan, and develop support obligations. This is not just something that should be done for parents who are no longer together or who can’t agree on parenting time and support. It is something all unwed parents should do. Taking these legal steps establishes important boundaries and rights. Without taking the time to establish these rights, parents may find their visitation with the child is at the mercy of the other parent. This can compromise the relationship between the parent and the child and the relationship between the unwed parents. If unwed parents are in agreement on the appropriate parenting plan for the child, establishing legal rights in court will be relatively quick and easy to accomplish. By taking action at a time when both parties are in an amicable relationship, it is more likely that both parent’s will take the child’s best interest into consideration and will not react out of anger or hurt feelings that may arise if the relationship later diminishes. Parents can always mutually agree to do something different than what is set out in the court ordered parenting plan, but the establishment of a court ordered parenting plan creates minimum rights for both parties.
Developing support obligations is also important. Even if legal paternity and child support have not been established, a parent is responsible for supporting their child from their birth until the age of 19 in the State of Nebraska, barring any exception which would emancipate the child at an earlier age. In the event a support action is brought at a later date, and the parent is unable to prove that they contributed adequately to the support of the child prior to the entry of the child support order, a parent could end up being ordered to pay child support retroactive to the birth of the child. This could be a significant obligation, particularly if an action for support is not brought until a child is in their teens. Additionally, establishing a support order may relieve some friction between unwed parents over finances by utilizing child support guidelines to determine the appropriate level of support.
I encourage all unwed parents to consult an attorney to discuss these topics in more detail and determine if it is appropriate for them to take action.