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How is Child Support Determined with Unmarried Parents?

There is a strong legal presumption in favor of biological parents paying child support for the care and well-being of their children, regardless of their marital status at the time of the child’s conception or birth. However, there are some unique considerations unmarried parents should keep in mind when petitioning for or disputing child support. Here, the family law attorneys at Rodier Family Law discuss what unmarried parents need to know about child support. 

Marital Status Does Not Impact a Parent’s Duty of Support

Marital status generally does not influence a biological parent’s legal responsibility to their children, and there are very few instances where a biological parent would not be legally expected to pay child support. One such instance is in the case of sperm or egg donors, who typically must relinquish their parental rights and thus would not be obligated to pay child support. 

Otherwise, generally both parents owe a duty of support to their child until the child is 18 years of age. If the child is unmarried and still a full-time high school student upon turning 18, child support obligations will stand until the child turns 19 or graduates high school, whichever comes first. According to Maryland law, paternity must be established before a mother can petition for child support from the presumed biological father of her child if the parents are not married. 

Marital Status Can Impact a Father’s Legal Rights to a Child 

In Maryland, generally the biological mother of a child is automatically considered the legal parent of their child. If the mother is married at the time the child is born, the mother’s husband is presumed to be the father of the child, but it is a rebuttable presumption. Unmarried fathers must prove their paternity through genetic testing, the signing of the child’s birth certificate or an affidavit of parentage, which is a simple and voluntary process. However, once an affidavit of parentage is signed, it is a legally binding document.  If a father has questions about his parentage of a child, DNA testing may be a better option prior to signing an affidavit of parentage or assuming a legal obligation for a child.

Fathers May Have the Right to Challenge Paternity 

In Maryland, both married and unmarried fathers have the right to challenge paternity should they believe a child is not biologically theirs—in fact, Maryland law requires fathers to establish paternity before a mother can petition for child support payments. If paternity is disputed, the court can order a paternity test to be conducted. However, if the father has already signed the affidavit of parentage, he is legally bound to carry out parental obligations.

Discuss Child Support and Child Custody Concerns with the Attorneys at Rodier Family Law

The financial support of both parents, where possible, is often legally considered to be in the best interest of most children. As a biological parent with custody of their child, you may be entitled to child support from the other biological parent, regardless of your marital status. To learn more about your options, speak to one of the dedicated family law attorneys at Rodier Family Law today.