(1) Who is the Daddy?
Otherwise referred to as Establishing Paternity, this is an essential step to obtaining child support. It is also typically beneficial to the child because it may ultimately establish a strong parent-child connection with the father and his family, which may add to increased financial support for the child in the long run. Additionally, the father may have a medical, dental, and/or vision plan the child may benefit from, as well as access to family medical records. Other benefits may be available to the child depending on what the father’s occupation and/or background is as well.
There are numerous ways to go about establishing paternity in North Dakota:
- Paternity by Presumption is found in N.D.C.C. 14-20-10.(204). This covers paternity established inside or outside of marriage including getting married after the birth of a child, as well as the child being born during the marriage, and the child being born while married within three hundred days after the marriage is terminated. Id. At (a) – (d).
- Paternity by Acknowledgment is found in N.D.C.C. 14-20-11. (301), which covers the establishment of paternity by the mother and “a man claiming to be the genetic father . . . [signing] an acknowledgment of paternity with intent to establish the man’s paternity.” Complications may arise when attempting to establish execution of this acknowledgment if a presumed or already adjudicated father exists.
- The requirements for Paternity by Genetic Testing are found in N.D.C.C. 14-20-27.(503). The statute provides that “Genetic testing must be of a type reasonably relied upon by experts in the field of genetic testing and performed in a testing laboratory accredited by: (a) The American association of blood banks, or a successor to its functions; (b) the American society for histocompatibility and immunogenetics, or a successor to its functions; or (c) An accrediting body designated by the United States secretary of health and human services.” Typically, genetic testing procedures utilize one or more samples of blood, buccal cells, bone, hair, or other body tissue or fluid.
(2) And What Does He Do?
After we’ve established paternity, we need to figure out what the father earns to establish child support obligations. N.D. Admin. Code 75-02-04.1 provides a list of guidelines for what is included in an overall calculation of child support. It also tackles the issue of imputed income, which is where the court will consider whether the father is underemployed and adjust the support calculation accordingly. N.D. Admin.Code 75-02-04. 1-07.
(3) Child Support Order
After we have paternity established and what the father does the next step is obtaining a child support order. The approach of obtaining a support order is highly recommended because it provides a means for enforcement of the child support obligations we calculated above. To do so, a child support petition will need to be filed.
- Note: The less recommended approach is to come to an agreement with your child’s father as to child support payments. Problematically, without a court order, such an agreement generally lacks enforcement power.
(4) What If He Isn’t Paying Child Support?
This can be a tricky issue. We may need to find out where the father works. It’s not always easy to collect child support payments, especially if the father is unwilling to pay. Luckily, there are steps we can take to ensure you receive those payments.
Some options include:
- Withholding federal tax refunds and using them to satisfy delinquent child support payments.
- Garnishing his wages or income.
- For this approach we need the address of the father’s place of employment.
- Suspending his driver’s and/or professional license.
- Issuing a lien against his property or real estate.
- And much more.
(5) Or, Is It Time To Modify?
Depending on whether you, or the child’s father can show a “material change in circumstances” a child support award can be modified if it is in the child’s best interests. However, this standard only applies if you are attempting to modify within a one-year period after the order was entered.
Wait! What is a material change in circumstance?
Well, maybe the father just received a substantial promotion, or has intentionally decreased his earnings. In such a situation, a modification of child support may be sought. Modification may reduce or increase payments, depending on who is moving for modification, and how the court rules.
(6) Contact SW&L
The child support process can be difficult and arduous. Whether you have questions about calculating the proper amount of child support, or the father is contesting the amount of child support, the terms of the order, or raising other related custody or child support issues. SW&L’s dedicated and experienced staff can aid you with any of the aforementioned issues as well as any general inquiries you may have. Contact our Family Law Team today.