Is my 15 year old son on the hook for child support?
Questions and answers about minors and child support.
My teenage son and his teenage girlfriend are having a baby and we don’t know if she can sue him for child support. It was not planned as they are both in school and depend on us, their parents. My son wants to give the baby up for adoption but his girlfriend doesn’t. We support our son. We’re afraid that he will be on the hook for child support and still may not be allowed in this baby’s life. We feel so lost and don’t know what to do next. – W
This is such a tough situation. Most parents don’t expect to think about their children in the context of minors and child support. I’m not sure if you are hoping to do an adoption despite the girlfriend’s wishes. The reality is that she must consent to an adoption, unless she abandons the baby. Or her parental rights are terminated involuntarily. This isn’t easy to do and would be initiated by your state’s child protective services.
You ask a really important question about child support and what parenting would look like. It’s important that you talk to an attorney in your state as I can’t give you legal advice about your specific situation. But here are some thoughts:
Your son may be liable for child support payments
You son isn’t off the hook for child support just because he’s a minor. In fact, you, the grandparents, might also be liable for child support toward your grandchild. This is because a parent is a parent regardless of their age. You should check with a family law attorney in your state who specializes in custody and support to find out everyone’s potential liabilities. There may be things you should be doing now, before birth, to protect your rights and prevent liability if that’s what you want.
Consider talking with the girlfriend’s parents
It’s probably a good idea to talk directly to the girlfriend’s parents. Find out how they feel about the pregnancy and what parenting would look like moving forward. You might find out that you are all on the same page. It will also help you find out their intentions, what type of people they are, etc. It’s also a plan to figure out custody and support and what role the parents will play. Make sure they know how much you love this baby and want to be in its life.
Keep this conversation as amicable as possible. If the girlfriend decides to parent, you will have this family in your life for as long as your grandchild lives. I would be very careful about talking about adoption. If they don’t agree with you, this could really damage any potential relationship. The best way to keep things on an even keel is to ask if she’s considered adoption (then you have your answer), then make sure they know you support the kids in whatever they decide.
Talk with an family law attorney in your state who specializes in custody and support
If you are really concerned that the girlfriend’s family will shut you out, or if you decide that you aren’t comfortable co-parenting with them, get professional help immediately. Work with a counselor or mediator to see if there’s a way you all can get on the same page. If not, consider working with an attorney before the baby is born to see if there’s anything you can be doing now to protect yourselves. The sooner you act the better your chances of getting what you want.
A cautionary tale about the risks of unprotected sex
What strikes me most about your situation is how important it is that our kids understand the risks of engaging in unprotected sex. Not only do teenagers risk becoming pregnant, but they take a big risk with their health by exposing themselves to STDs (sexually transmitted disease). Here are some of the health complications that can result from STDs:
- Tubal or ectopic pregnancy
- Cervical cancer
- Infections in infants born to infected mothers
As you have learned, when an unmarried woman becomes pregnant, the father of her baby may have very limited rights. There are a number of scenarios that could play out, including with minors and child support. Here are a few quick facts:
- The pregnant woman may not tell him about the pregnancy.
- She might have the baby and place it for adoption, telling the professionals involved that she doesn’t know who the father is.
- An unmarried man’s name does not go on his child’s birth certificate unless the birth mother agrees to it or a court orders it.
- The mother may sue the father for child support until the child is 18.
- Paying child support isn’t a guarantee that the father will have custody or visitation.
I am so sorry that you have found yourself in this really tough situation. I hope you will talk with an attorney in your state as soon as possible to better understand your rights and potential liability. Best of luck to you all.