Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law
Bristol Palin’s ex-boyfriend, Levy Johnson, is now going to father another child, according to recent stories. Recent news reports indicate that the former Wasilla mayoral candidate is expecting a child with his present girlfriend, Sunny Ogelsby. Again, entering into a paternity issue since he is unmarried to this mother-to-be. Contrary to popular belief, at least in Florida, paternity of a child born out of wedlock is not determined by a birth certificate or DNA, but by actually being established by the court. Therefore, Levy Johnson will most likely find himself in another courtroom to decide the fate of another child and the child support he will have to pay.
According to Levy Johnson, when questioned about his relationship with the child he shares with Bristol Palin, he has not been much of a father. He has told reporters, recently, “The Insider,” that he has not been able to exercise any visitation or time-sharing with the child due to Bristol Palin and her family denying him any visitation. This time, he has said he anticipates being involved with the child that was recently conceived after the couple, Johnson and Ogelsby, forgot to take birth control with them on a romantic getaway.
The legal issue with Johnson’s story regarding his child with Palin, is that typically a court order for visitation/time-sharing can be enforced by the court. In his situation with Bristol Palin, there is presently a court ordered time-sharing schedule that, according to the Palins’ attorney, he has not exercised. When a child is involved and there is a court order regarding matters such as child support, visitation and the like, anything in that order that is not followed by one party can be enforced by the court, IF the other party brings an action in court. Not playing a role in a child’s life, once the visitation schedule has been established, is a choice and not due to the actions of just one parent.
In Florida, to enforce an order with the court, the non-offending party must file a Motion of Contempt or Enforcement with the Court. Since the other party is refusing to follow a court order, then that parent may be held in contempt of court, and depending on the severity of such contempt, can be placed in jail for a period of time. This type of actions allows the parents to have some control over the relationship of the parent and child, but also is a way to enforce monetary requirements of child support. In most states, by not paying child support, the offending party may be placed in jail, have his or her drivers license suspended, professional license suspended, have his or her tax returns seized, and much more. For issues of time-sharing, however, the court may enforce the other party to allow visitation, but typically it cannot require a parent to actually see the child. That enforcement is a little more challenging if the parent does not have an interest in developing a relationship with the child.
If you have fathered a child, then you need to have your parental rights properly established with the court to guarantee your visitation rights to the child. However, please be aware that by doing so you open yourself up for being court ordered to pay child support. Also, if the court has already established paternity, but there are issues with the time-sharing or visitation plan due to being cut-out of the child’s life, then you should file the proper action with the court to enforce the prior order.