What is Paternity?
Paternity is a part of Family Law and we take Family seriously at Michael D. Barber & Associates. Our firm was founded around Family Principles from when Michael D. Barber Sr., handed down his knowledge.
We work to ensure every client has the information and resources they need to understand the Paternity process. It is important to know what to expect during the entire process and what to expect from a family law attorney. Paternity can be a long process so its best to have experience on your side.
Paternity usually involves an unwed man and woman who have a child. It DOES NOT MATTER if you are on the birth certificate, if you were unmarried at the time then the Father has no rights to the child legally.
There are other ways that a mother can ask the court to make you responsible as a father.
The First Step
Paternity is controlled, in part, by statutes involving O.C.G..A 19-7-40 THROUGH 19-7-54. Paternity proceedings begin by filing a complaint, or petition, with a court seeking for the father to be found legally responsible for his child. Generally Attorneys create these documents for the Petitioner/Plaintiff.
In Georgia the respondent in a Paternity Complaint/Petition has a limited time to file an answer (a response is usually due within 30 days but there are some exceptions). The answer is usually brief, admitting or denying parts of the Petition.
As a Respondent, although not necessary, it is our position that filing your demands as a Respondent must be done; without it, you could find yourself at trial facing an agenda set by opposing side’s inflated and uncontested position.
There is another way that the mother can make the father responsible which involves the DFACS (the Department of Family and Children Services). This method, however, gives the father no rights to see the child BUT will get you as the mother a monthly child support amount.
Process after the first step
The next process depends on the answer to the petition. If the petition is denied various motions will need to be filed including a request for DNA evaluation between yourself and the child.
Early in the process, parties may file motions for temporary orders to address any pressing issue that cannot wait until the end of the Paternity or that the Paternity may or may not depend on.
But most parties make serious efforts to arrive at an acceptable temporary arrangement without going to court. Avoiding temporary orders will help keep down attorneys’ fees and possibly create a more favorable impression on the judge.
The types of temporary motions range from:
Admission of Paternity, Temporary Child Support, Temporary Child Custody, Temporary Restraining Orders and more.
In any legal case or filing, discovery is where information is gathered to support your case and help dispute the opposing side. This is the time period where you gather information for your attorney, or you, to present to the court.
One thing our firm knows is how to think around the other side. We have extensive experience in trial work and have learned how to anticipate your soon to be ex spouse’s case.
It is true that a very small number of Paternitys go to trial. Determining the likelihood of your case going to trial depends on certain factors, including the parties salary level, the overall length of the marriage. There are some restrictions on the trial that the court places which include the time the court allocates, or allows, the case to be litigated, the number of issues that have to be discussed, and especially how complex the issues surrounding your situation.
Evidence is presented through the use of witnesses and exhibits. Once all the evidence you present is concluded, you will then “rest,” and then it is the other side’s turn to make their case.
After both sides have rested, the Court may permit the Petitioner to present “rebuttal” testimony by responding to the Respondent’s evidence.
Most lawyers do not use opening or closing arguments in Paternity trials, but some Courts do allow them.
It is common for cases to settle on either the day of trial, during trial and sometimes earlier. The term settlement involves the use of a settlement agreement. Using the settlement agreement has advantages. A reasonable agreement may allow you and your spouse more control over your judgment rather than leaving it up to either a judge or a group of your peers (a jury). Many clients prefer to avoid the anxiety of a trial or leaving the outcome of their lives in a judge or jury’s hands.
Other factors that may affect reaching settlement could be time or money. You may wait one to several years for trial, and during that time both parties attorneys’ fees will continue to climb. These fees generally increase \as the trial date approaches and attorney’s begin preparation.
Finally, as tempting as it is, it is almost always a mistake to negotiate directly with your spouse, even when your attorney is in the loop. Any deals that you cut can create unrealistic expectations that will calcify into intractable positions. The litigation fallout from the miscommunication can easily double your attorney fees.
Before trial, you may attend at least one mandatory “settlement conference.”. These force the attorneys for both parties to discuss the merits of the case in front of the judge and they can get the judges input on how the judge thinks that the trial may go forward.
During this conference that both sides fully realize the emotional and financial expenses of a trial. Afterward, they may approach negotiations more rationally.
The demeanor of the judge during these hearings is very important. After hearing an overview of the facts, judges in some states may offer their opinion of the facts and offer suggestions on possible settlement.
Either before or after your judge may require a mediation to take place and may give a time period under which it must take place.
Paternity proceedings can unleash a torrent of emotions ranging from anger to anxiety to depression. But as difficult as this experience is, you cannot simply call in sick, because your (and your children’s) interests hinge on your ability to push through and make rational decisions. So you must work to separate grievances that are meaningfully related to your children’s welfare from those that are offensive to you personally, however grave.
Remember that you are not walking this path alone. Your attorney will be your key advisor, but many of the pivotal considerations are not within his or her province. Therefore, it is usually helpful to seek advice from others whose knowledge and judgment you respect, including a counselor.
Always talk to your attorney first. Friends and family may help, but they also might pour gasoline on the fire. Knowing when to tune in also means knowing when to tune out.