Behind the concept of child support is the basic principle that parents have legal and financial responsibilities to the child, regardless of whether they are in an intact relationship. A court order may be entered in connection with a divorce or paternity case, and the Michigan’s Support and Parenting Time Enforcement Act provides three different routes for determining the details:
- The state child support formula;
- A deviation from the formula where appropriate; and,
- Agreement of the parties.
However, another fundamental concept behind child support is that the duty only applies to parents. As a result, the brief answer to the question is: No, you do not have to pay child support for your ex’s children. A Michigan child support lawyer can explain the role of paternity in creating a legal and financial obligation, but some background information is useful.
What Triggers Child Support Obligations
Aside from an adoption situation, the legal relationship of parent and child only arises in three situations:
- Legal Presumption: In Michigan, a child is presumed to be the offspring of the spouses if they were married when it was conceived and/or born. This presumption can be overcome with evidence to the contrary. For instance, another man could claim that the child was his own.
- Affidavit of Parentage: Unmarried parents have the option of signing this document, in which they both agree to the child’s parentage. Both parties must sign before a notary public, and they often do so at the hospital when the baby is born.
- Paternity Court Case: Either parent can initiate a lawsuit to have the court decide the issue of parentage, though the government may do so when the child receives public assistance. Usually, the proceedings involve DNA evidence as proof of paternity.
When parentage is established through any of these routes, child support obligations attach. The next step is entering the appropriate order according to child support guidelines. Note that the legal parents also have rights with respect to custody and visitation, so either can initiate court action in these areas. The primary factor with these determinations is the child’s best interests.
Doctrine of Equitable Paternity
There is a concept through which someone may gain rights without actually being a biological or legal parent of the child – but where many attributes of the parent-child relationship exist. Equitable paternity or parentage by estoppel is rarely used in court, so it would certainly be a stretch to impose a child support obligation on this basis. There may be an argument for allowing visitation to a non-biological parent, however.
Our Michigan Child Support Attorneys Will Advise You on the Details
This rarely used concept of equitable paternity notwithstanding, you would never be required to pay child support for your ex’s children unless they are also your own. For additional information on how Michigan child support laws work, please contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Robbins to schedule a consultation. After reviewing your situation, we can answer additional questions and provide personalized advice.