Do I Still Have to Pay Child Support if I Sign Over my Paternity Rights?
By Kylie Ora Lobell
Updated February 20, 2020
A couple with a child may split up, and even if they’re not married, the court may order the non-custodial parent to pay a certain amount of child support every month. The amount depends upon the needs of the child, the duties of the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent’s income, among other factors.
If the non-custodial parent decides he wants to give up his paternity rights, and he doesn’t want to pay child support, he may be able to do so depending on the circumstances of the case as well as the court’s decision. The duty of a court in child support and custody matters is always to act in the best interests of the child, and even if both parents agree to terminate paternity rights, the court has the final say.
Relinquishing Parental Rights
A father may want to relinquish his parental rights for many different reasons. For example, he may have had a baby during a relationship in which he did not anticipate raising a child. He wants to relinquish his parental rights, so the mother can raise the child without his involvement.
Perhaps a father wants to move away or wants nothing to do with his child’s life because he has other plans or he never envisioned becoming a parent, or the child has a step-parent who wants to adopt the child. In any case, if the father wants to give up his paternity rights, he must first speak with the mother about it. She may agree to the termination of paternity rights. However, even if the two parents are in agreement that the father should give up his parental rights, the court may still not allow it.
The Rights of Children
Children have a basic right to have parents, so terminating paternity rights is not something the court takes lightly. Even if the father abandons his child, the court may be hesitant to leave the child with only the custodial parent. It is more likely that the court will seek a situation in which one parent can still visit with supervision or keep paying child support, for instance.
When another person is willing to adopt the child – ensuring that the child has two parents – then the court is more likely to allow the father to relinquish his parental rights. This may be the case if the mother has remarried and her spouse is willing to step in as the child’s stepparent and go through an adoption process.
How Child Support Factors In
A father cannot give up his paternity rights to get out of child support payments. If child support is the main factor in the father's desire to terminate his paternity rights, he can seek court intervention with respect to the amount he is paying. For example, if he just lost his job, then he can advise the court of the changed circumstances and ask that his child support requirements be modified accordingly.
If child support is not the driving factor, then a father would not have to pay child support once the court terminates his paternity rights. However, he would have to pay any child support he owed up until the time his parental rights were terminated. That includes payments owed during the process he went through to terminate his parental rights. Until the court enters the order terminating the father's paternity, he is still obligated to pay child support. If support is owed at the time the order is entered, the court may include language in the order requiring that child support payments are made current through the date of the order.
The court, above all else, makes sure the child is protected. Everything may go smoothly between the two parents when relinquishing parental rights, but ultimately, it is the court's decision as to whether it's best for the child in question.