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Child Support and Unwed Mothers

Should Unwed Mothers File for Child Support?


Mother ebracing two young children
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Many unwed mothers aren't sure whether they should file for child support. In the end, it is a personal decision. However, there are several different factors that should be taken into consideration. Let's explore some questions and answers unwed mothers should consider when deciding whether to file for child support:

Has the child's father filed for child custody?

If the child's father has already initiated a child custody suit, then it may be in the mother's best interests to request child support. Generally, child support and child custody procedures are both determined at the same time. Therefore, to avoid having to return to court for another court hearing, or even several others, an unwed mother might decide to file for child support following a child's father's request for child custody. Unwed mothers should also be mindful that child support payments do not impact custody or visitation in most courts. In other words, even when a child's father does not pay child support regularly, the court may still determine that the child is entitled to visitation rights with the father.

Is the mother receiving government assistance?

If the child's mother is receiving government assistance and the father's name is on the child's birth certificate, the governmental agency will most likely seek to collect child support from the father, with or without the mother's consent. The governmental agencies must protect the public's interest. Therefore, in the minds of governmental agencies, it's best to collect as much child support as possible to offset a parent's governmental assistance. The public welfare system assumes that an unwed mother would not need welfare if the child's father were supporting the children.

Does the mother have a good relationship with the child's father?

If the parents have a good relationship with each other, whether they are still a couple or not, it might not be necessary to file for child support. If parents are able to communicate about their child's needs, it's possible for an unwed mother to receive voluntary contributions toward a child's regular needs, as well as additional expense items, simply by asking the child's father for assistance. If that's the case, there's no reason to involve the court, as the court prefers for parents to work with each other as opposed to the court getting involved.

Is the father currently supporting the child?

This is the most important question of all. Unwed mothers may not feel the need to file for child support in cases where the child's father is currently adequately supporting the child. Of course, adequate support is subjective. If a mother does not believe the support she's receiving meets the child's needs, she should consider initiating a child support action in court. The court will consider the following factors before ordering child support:

  • The financial resources of the parents
  • The child's needs
  • Other children borne to the parents who also need of support

Is the father expecting another child with someone else?

This is another important question. An unwed mom may decide to file for child support against a father if the father is expecting another child with someone else. The reason for filing at this time is because a mother may assume that another child will financially impact the child's father. As a result, the child's father may not be able to support the child at the same level he once was. In that case, an unwed mother may consider filing for child support as the best way to protect her child against losing any current support.

What's the mother's motivation for filing for child support?

Some unwed mothers may file for child support for the wrong reasons, meaning perhaps the child's father is supporting the child adequately, providing food, clothing, and maybe paying for a portion of the child's shelter. In this case, there may be no reason to file for child support payments. Some poor reasons for filing for child support include:

  • The father is in a new relationship

  • The father left the mother and the mother is upset

  • The mother believes child support should support her own needs as well as her child's needs

The only good reason to file for child support is the best interests of the child and because the child is entitled to receive love and support from both parents.

For more information about child support, please refer to the child support guidelines in your state or speak with a qualified attorney.

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