What You Say, What You Do
“This is Us” has become a very popular show on television. One of the current storylines concerns a child, adopted by the family at birth. He seeks and finds his birth father. The impact on the family when the birth father is found is complicated to say the least.
Today, there are many children born to unmarried parents. From one perspective, it may appear to be less complicated to remain unmarried; but often, this is simply not the case.
Children born to unmarried parents touch almost every facet of family law. These considerations include the rights of paternity, legitimation of the birth, the ability to put up the child for adoption, child custody and child support. What about grandparent visitation rights and the termination of parental rights to one or both of the birth parents.
These are a few of the major issues created when a child is born to unmarried parents.
The legal status of such children starts from the date of conception and becomes complicated and quite often, contentious. Here are some examples of the litany of legal questions that are going to arise.
First, there is the biological father.
1) Who is the biological father?
2) How do you unequivocally determine who is the biological father?
3) Does he have any rights?
4) How does he establish those rights?
5) When does he establish those rights?
6) Has he waived such rights?
7) How does he become a legal father?
Second, there is custody and guardianship.
1) Is a guardianship of the child needed?
2) Who has custody of the child if one of the parents dies?
3) Who has custody of this child?
4) Is there visitation?
5) Do the grandparents have the right to see the child?
6) Do both sets of grandparents have the same rights?
7) What if mom marries someone else… can the “someone else” adopt the child?
8) Who is responsible for supporting the child?
9) When does that support start?
10) How is that support determined?
Third, there are the questions concerning adoption.
1) Do the parental rights of both parents need to be severed in order for an adoption to take place?
2) What type of adoption is it?
3) Are there rules about open adoption?
These are a sample of the questions generated when a child is born to unmarried parents. It is the rare occasion that one of these issues does not, in fact, rise to the level of litigation at some point during the life of this child.
Unfortunately, that means for most children in this situation, what should normally be a happy event often results in misinformation, hurt feelings, anger and in all too many cases, litigation.
If you or someone you know are in this situation, facing these facts, you, or they, need to immediately contact a family law professional. What may have seemed like the hassle-free choice is going to be anything but hassle free.
Immediate steps are needed to address many of the issues raised in this article so that a complicated situation does not overwhelm and get completely out of hand.
Take this seriously, and take action immediately as if it is the most important crisis in this child’s life. It may prove to be.