On February 6, 2013, Georgia resident, Pamela Y. Smith, filed suit against Michael Jordan, former NBA player and current majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, claiming that he is the father of her 16-year-old son.
The teenager's mother alleges that her son is the child of a relationship that she had with Jordan in 1995, while Jordan was married to another woman. Jordan and his wife at the time split up in 2006. In the complaint, Smith is asking to retain full custody and for Jordan to pay child support and the child's medical bills. The Georgia woman is also asking the court to change her son's last name to "Jordan."
This scenario poses several issues, including the determination of paternity. In order for Smith to collect child support from Jordan, the courts will first have to establish that Jordan is the biological father of the teenager. Establishing paternity is also important because when legal paternity has been established, the child then has the right to the father's medical coverage, pensions and inheritance and Social Security or veteran's benefits. Jordan filed a motion to dismiss the suit on March 4, citing public records that show that the boy's paternity was established in 2003 in a divorce settlement between Smith and her ex-husband.
In many states, including Illinois, where it is alleged that Jordan and Smith met in the 1980s, unwed parents can establish paternity in the hospital when the child is born by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity Form. This form must be signed in order for the father's name to be added to the birth certificate. If the VAP form was not signed before leaving the hospital, parents can choose to sign it later at the County Clerk's office, the Office of Vital Records, the local Department of Human Services or the Child Support Services office.
Establishing child custody
Had the Smith-Jordan case been filed in Chicago, a child custody battle could end a few different ways. Illinois courts use the best interests of the child standard to determine child custody. The court considers factors such as:
- The parent's wishes
- The child's wishes and relationship with the parents
- The child's adjustment to home, school and community
- The mental health and physical health of the parties involved
- Any history of domestic violence or sex offenses
- Whether either parent is active in the military
- Witness testimony
If one party fares better than the other when all these factors have been assessed, that parent could get either full custody or more parenting time.
Joint legal and joint physical custody
If both parents are fairly even when considering the best interest factors, family courts in Illinois will likely award joint legal custody and joint physical custody. If joint custody is awarded, the parents are required to sign a Joint Parenting Agreement. This agreement explains the rights and the responsibilities of each parent.
In the event that one party does not win custody, that parent is entitled to reasonable visitation unless a court determines that visitation will endanger the child's mental, physical or emotional health. Child custody orders in Illinois cannot be modified until at least two years after the order is issued. Exception to this will be made if the court has reason to believe that the current arrangement is endangering the child's moral, mental, physical or emotional health.
Establishing paternity and child custody are very delicate situations that can be very difficult. Individuals seeking custody, child support, alimony or other issues related to divorce could benefit from consulting with an experienced family law attorney.
Abstract: A woman recently filed a paternity lawsuit against Michael Jordan, claiming that he fathered her child and should pay child support but not have custody.