When a married couple has a child, Kansas law assumes that the spouses are the child’s legal parents. But when an unmarried mother gives birth, no presumption of parentage arises absent formal acknowledgement signed by the child’s father or a paternity order from a court, both of which allow the father’s name to be placed on the child’s birth certificate. In either situation involving unmarried parents, the Kansas Parentage Act governs the process.
Recently, the law has been extended, so that the Kansas Parentage Act applies to both heterosexual and same-sex couples. Parentage can be established by the second parent of a child in the same manner as a legal father in a heterosexual couple.
Whether paternity is accomplished through a voluntary acknowledgement signed by the father or pursuant to a court action, establishment of parentage creates legal responsibilities and rights for a child’s second legal parent. Those obligations and rights can be enforced through Kansas courts.
One of the most important duties of the legal parent is the obligation to provide financial support for the child. In some situations, a court determines paternity in the context of an action to enforce that duty.
Paternity also includes benefits and legal rights for both the father or second parent and the child. The father or second parent gains the ability to have a relationship with the child, as well as rights relating to custody and visitation and the ability to participate in decisions relating to the child. The child also benefits in a number of ways, including the opportunity to have a relationship with the father or second parent and his or her family, and the ability to qualify for benefits through the father or second parent and inherit from him or her.
Under the Kansas statute, Kan. Stat. Ann. § 38-1110 through § 38-1138, there are two ways that an unmarried second parent or father of a child can be legally established as the legal parent of the child. The first is the formal voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, referred to as a VAP form.
If the father or second parent is present when the child is born, the facility provides a VAP form, which the parents may sign at that time. The parents also may voluntarily acknowledge parentage after the birth of the child at any time until the child becomes 18 years old.
If a father or second parent does not voluntarily acknowledge parentage, it can be established through a court action. A parentage action may be initiated by either parent, a legal representative of the child, or certain government officials. The court also has authority to determine parentage in an action for divorce, annulment, separate maintenance, support, or adoption.
When a Kansas court makes the determination of a child’s parentage in any court action, the provisions of the Parentage Act govern the court’s decision. Under the law, the court may order genetic testing for the mother, alleged father, and child, either on its own motion or on motion of any party to the action.
Genetic tests are just one of a number of considerations that the court may take into account in determining parentage of a child. The judge has authority to take any relevant evidence into account, including:
If both parents are parties to the action, the court’s order may provide for issuance of a new birth certificate, as well as provisions relating to the child’s financial support, including medical expenses relating to the birth. The statute specifies the factors for the judge to consider in determining the amount of support.
The order also may include terms relating to custody, residency of the child, and parenting time, based on the judge’s determination of what is in the best interest of the child. If the parties have an agreed parenting plan, the plan is presumed to be in the best interests of the child. However, the court can enter a different order if the judge determines that the parents’ plan is not in the best interest of the child.
When issues arise involving a child born to unmarried parents, the best approach will be determined largely based on the specific situation. For either parent, talking with an experienced Kansas family law attorney is strongly recommended. Applicable laws include the parentage statute and the state laws governing custody and support of children.
A knowledgeable lawyer will explain the relevant laws and available legal procedures relating to resolution of the issues, discuss available options, and assist in making a decision on how to proceed. The attorney can also help in negotiating a parenting plan and agreement on custody and support issues, in situations where agreement may be possible.
If you face an issue involving parentage, support, custody, or any type of domestic or family law issue, our trusted Salina, Kansas domestic and family law attorneys at Hampton & Royce, L.C. are here to help.
We serve clients throughout the State of Kansas. Contact us to schedule a consultation.