THE BLOG
06/09/2011 04:57 pm ET | Updated Aug 09, 2011

If A Child Is Born Out Of Wedlock...Is Dad Out of Luck?

We all like to live vicariously through celebrities; they are beautiful, have nice homes, get to take great vacations, and appear to be so happy. However, just when you think a Hollywood couple has it all, the truth comes out. Case in point: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver. The couple announced plans to divorce and just days later the shocking news came out: Arnold has a love child with the family's former maid. It is being reported that the former California Governor assumed financial responsibility for the child since birth more than 10 years ago and continues to support the child now.

While this tale seems sordid enough for the silver screen, there are countless children across the country born out of wedlock. Not surprisingly, many of these cases end up in court when the parents are at odds about custody, child support and other matters. So how does the court decide these types of cases? The law favors the mother.

In almost every state, the mother of a child born out of wedlock automatically has 100% custody rights until paternity is established. However, even after paternity is established, it is the obligation of the father, if he wants custodial rights or parenting time with the child, to commence a court proceeding. In other words, short of an agreement between the parties, the only way the father can get any rights to the child is by going to court. Once there, the court must determine what is in the "best interest of the child."

In terms of child support, dad's typically take center stage. Even if the father had no idea the child was born, he is still obligated financially until that child is emancipated, which in most states is 18-years-old. On the other hand, mom will not receive any public assistance, if she qualifies, for the child unless she names the dad.

It's in the father's best financial interest to be open and approach the court about the child because any payments made to mother from father will generally NOT count as child support until there is a court order. Mom may also be entitled to retroactive child support payments as far back as two years in some states. She can also, by law in most states, have dad pay all or a portion of the medical costs associated with giving birth to the child.

In the eyes of the court, mom and dad are both responsible for their child, even if they aren't married or live on opposite ends of the earth. The responsibility doesn't terminator... I mean terminate until the child is considered an adult. For Arnold, that means he has to wait another 8 years until he can financially say "hasta la vista baby!"