Failing to finalize a divorce can come back to haunt dads
The divorce rate in the United States is quite high. Some statistics put it at 50 percent, others closer to one-third. Either number represents a common and sad outcome for many couples. But there are those who do not follow through with legal divorce proceedings even though their marriage is irretrievably broken.
Whether it’s because of religious convictions, money or just frustration, sometimes people just walk away and don’t look back. This isn’t the best legal or life choice for men because failing to bring your marriage to a legal end can come back to haunt you.
Paternity and marriage
In Missouri, if you are legally married to a woman and she gives birth to a child, you are considered the legal guardian and parent. The fact that you have not lived together or even been in contact will not change your legal status as the child’s father. An important part of the of the “marriage contract” is protecting the health and welfare of children. Because the law automatically triggers your parental rights, you could be compelled to pay child support while estranged from your spouse.
The 300 rule
For all you epic battle movie buffs out there, the “300 rule” doesn’t refer to ancient Spartans or the Hollywood film 300. It’s a rule some states use to designate legal fatherhood. Basically, if you were still married within 300 days of a child’s birth, you are considered the father by law. Now, that may or may not be biologically true. After all, when marriages break down there aren’t often many loving moments. And, people sometimes begin new relationships before the final divorce decree is issued. But the 300 rule is very important for divorcing husbands because that is the countdown to you no longer having paternity obligations.
For men who put off divorce proceedings, you can be stuck paying support when someone else should be held responsible. You’ll need to bring an action in court and prove you are not the biological father. This will most likely mean getting a DNA test. Until you convince a court otherwise, you can be required to pay child support. Unfortunately, you may now be tangled up in a paternity lawsuit as well as a divorce proceeding.
Walking away from a marriage may seem like a way to avoid a stressful divorce process when your relationship breaks down. However, by not following through with the legal aspects, there could be a hefty price to pay later.
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