Will marriage matter for Owen Wilson’s baby?

Owen Wilson’s 5 month old son Robert and Robert’s mother Jade Duell are relocating to New York while Wilson remains in California, according to reports on Hollybaby.com, PerezHilton.com and popeater.com.

The parents have apparently known each other for a little more than a year, having met on an airplane. Wilson announced that he was going to be a father 4 days before Robert was born. In interviews he was excited to be a father.  But he has now reportedly told friends and media that he was not ready for a stay-at-home relationship with Robert’s mother; so better to move on honestly than cheat behind her back.

Stick-it-out or let-it-go decisions aside, how will Robert be affected by the fact that his parents never married each other? 

Luckily for the baby, marriage no longer determines paternity our country. Either birth certificates or paternity tests do.  If Wilson was voluntarily listed on the child’s birth certificate he is presumed to be the father with all of the attendant legal responsibilities of fatherhood.  The States (New York and California) cannot force him to stay home every night with the mom nor visit his son every weekend.  But they can make sure thatWilson’s earning capacity benefits his child. 

In this case that is some substantial earning capacity. Even if Wilson does not make the same amount of money every year of his career (some movies are more successful than others), courts will determine an average amount that represents his annual earning capacity and assign a percentage of that as child support to be paid on Robert’s behalf, probably to the mother while she is raising him.

Although nothing says the parties are required to submit their break-up to a court, since they were never married, Duell would be wise to do so.  She and Wilson may have reached any agreement they want for financial and visitation matters, and it may seem fair or even generous to her right now.  But as the reality of being home with a baby continues to grow – and as Wilson’s sense of obligation continues to fade – these arrangements may cease to be as attractive to the parties.

The benefit of bringing the matter to court now, while they are (presumably) amicable, is to give their personal agreement the enforceability of a Judge’s decree.  Failing to make a payment to a “baby momma” across the country may be easier to do if there is no possibility of jail time attached to it.

Likewise, as an unwed father,Wilson has no presumed rights in the life of his child. If the parties have reached an amicable agreement about the amount of time Wilson will enjoy the company of his baby, or how the mom plans to raise him, or any other pertinent questions, they would be easier to enforce with a legally binding agreement on the court records.

What We Love:  Robert’s rights are protected, not matter what his parents decide to do with (or without) each other.

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