My girlfriend and I are having a baby. We are not married and do not want to get married. We live together in the same house. Do I have to pay child support since we live under the same roof and have no plans to separate? Just asking since we're unmarried.
It depends. You should consult an attorney in your jurisdiction as I do not practice in Ohio. That being said, I can lend some light as to how some states address child support when the parents are cohabitating but aren’t married.
When your child is born, there is a voluntary acknowledgement form that will be available for you to sign at the hospital. If you sign this form, you are legally Dad. As such, you or your girlfriend can go to court for an order establishing paternity and ordering custody, placement and child support arrangements. If neither of you go to court, then there is no order for support. However, in most states, without the paternity adjudication, you have no custody or placement rights. It is much easier to come to agreements when both of you are getting along. Therefore, if you both agree that you should have joint custody, shared placement and no child support, you should certainly obtain a court order establishing the same as soon as the baby is born. In the event that you later separate, the terms are already in place.
If your girlfriend is receiving public assistance, the State may file a paternity action to re-coup birthing costs and to establish support for the child. Many states have a statutory birthing cost that the father has to pay to the State if the mother was receiving public assistance at the time of birth. If you sign the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, you have already declared that you are the father. As such, the State will file an action adjudicating you as father and will ask for an order establishing a repayment of the birthing fees as well as an order for child support. Even if the mother does not want support, the State will demand a child support order if the mother is still on public assistance. If you later decide to marry, you may still be responsible for the remaining birthing costs as well as any child support arrears you may have accumulated.
Erica Christian is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Wisconsin. She is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Family Law Section and the Children’s Law Section.