Who’s Responsible for the Child?

When a couple is married and they have a child it is pretty easy to determine who is going to be responsible for the child financially should the marriage end in divorce.  There is no question who the mother of the child is, and in the situation above, there is no question who the father is. The husband/biological father is going to be responsible for the child and should the mother be awarded custody of the child, the father will be required to pay child support.

But what about the situation where the mom and dad are not married and they have a child together?  In this case, the dad is still going to be responsible for financially supporting the child.

That all seems pretty straight-forward, right?  Pretty much what you would expect. But there is a curveball.  Who is responsible when a couple is married, but the wife has a child by another man (not her husband).  This does not always happen in some illicit affair.  Many people that I have spoken with are married, but have not seen their spouse in over ten years and they have moved on (with everything except getting the divorce finalized).  If the relationship between the mom and the biological dad do not work out in this case who is held responsible for the child?  The husband.

Gasp!  That’s right, not the biological father.  When a couple is married in South Carolina and a child is born the husband is deemed to be the legal father of the child and if a support action is filed, the husband will be the defendant – not the biological father.

So why is it set up like this?  Because the government wants to make sure that children are supported and do not become dependent on the state.

Is that fair?  There is a case pending in Michigan right now about this very issue.  You can read more about the paternity law issue in the Michigan courts here.  Hat tip Family Law Prof Blog.

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