I am 20 weeks pregnant with my first baby. My boyfriend left me a few days ago, saying he wants nothing more to do with me or the baby. What are my legal rights? I can’t afford to pay for all the stuff the baby will need.

There’s no reason why you should have to take on this burden alone. It takes two people to make a baby, and both of them are legally responsible for the child’s wellbeing. Your ex-boyfriend no longer has the chance to “opt out” of parenthood.

The fact that you aren’t married will not penalize your unborn child in any way. You, on the other hand, will not have the same legal rights in dealing with your turncoat boyfriend as you would have had if you were married; for instance, you can’t ask the court to award you spousal support after your breakup.

Establishing paternity

The first step in getting your baby what she needs is establishing paternity. The easiest way would involve your ex-boyfriend admitting that he is the father by being present when the baby is born and completing the necessary paperwork, or else later filing an affidavit—a legal document that expresses someone’s sworn statement. From what you have told us, it doesn’t seem like this guy is going to step forward in that way.

The alternative, then, is for you to file a civil paternity action in North Carolina court. The judge will order genetic tests for you, the baby, and your former boyfriend. If the blood tests indicate a likelihood of 97 percent or more that your ex-boyfriend is indeed the father, then by law “the alleged parent is presumed to be the father and the results are admitted as evidence by the court.”

Paternity establishes rights

Once your baby’s paternity has been proven, you will be able to ask the court to demand reasonable child support payments from the father. The North Carolina family court judge will assign your ex-boyfriend a monthly sum of money he must pay you to help meet his child’s needs. As your child ages, you can even ask the court to change the amount of child support to reflect the greater needs and expenses of a growing child. In most cases, the obligation for child support ends at age 18 or when your child gets married.

Once paternity is determined, your child also gains the rights to inherit money from her father.

We should also note that the father gains some rights by the paternity suit. He gains the right to ask the court for custody and visitation schedules (sometimes called “parenting time”). From your description, it sounds unlikely that he will try to exercise these rights now, but he may want to connect with his child sometime in the future.

Do you have the ability to handle this yourself?

Taking your former boyfriend to court over paternity issues is probably something outside your normal range of skills and comfort (even if you weren’t five weeks pregnant). When you can’t handle something this important on your own, it’s time to call in the trustworthy and friendly North Carolina child support lawyers from Speaks Law Firm in Wilmington. Call us today toll-free at 877-593-4233 to learn how we can help you give your developing child the best start in life she can get.