The following article is from DivorceNet and offers general observation (not state-specific) on questions single mothers may have about their legal rights:
I’m having a baby boy in a month. I’m not married to the baby’s father, and we don’t plan to get married. Should I be concerned about custody and child support? My boyfriend is not ready to settle down.
He may not be ready to change diapers, but he’ll have to help support the child. That’s the law. Depending on the state where you live, it can mean he’ll have to support the child until he is emancipated at 18, or in some states, at 21 or even 23 years of age.
Do we need to sign any papers?
You should! There’s a lot at stake financially, psychologically and legally. Check with a family law lawyer in your state. There’s probably a procedure that allows you and the putative father to jointly acknowledge the parentage of your baby. The papers should be filed with the proper court, and if you and the putative father can’t agree on custody, support and visitation, the court will issue orders.
I lost my job recently and don’t plan on working until the baby is at least three months old, but I need help now, and my baby’s father never gets around to writing me a check. What can I do?
Depending on your state’s laws, you probably have a right to file a court action before the baby is born. The court won’t make a final decision on paternity until the baby arrives, but you’ll be able to get some support and medical coverage in the meantime.
Will I get enough to pay all of my bills?
That’s hard to say. Each state has its own rules and child support guidelines, but it’s probably fair to say there won’t be enough money to pay all of your bills simply because most putative fathers don’t have enough money. And even if the putative father has lots of money, courts don’t award money to women for their own support in these cases.
You mean there’s no "palimony" before the baby is born. What happens after the baby arrives?
Even after the baby is born, you’re still not entitled to "palimony," but you should receive the same amount of child support a divorced woman receives. The states have tried eliminating any legal differences between children born out of wedlock and those born to married people. But the amount of support you get depends on state law. For example, if Massachusetts law applies, you’ll get more support that you would under Texas law. Every state has its own rules and guidelines.