For unmarried parents, a paternity action is the method of officially establishing a parent-child relationship and obtaining enforceable orders for custody, a visitation schedule and child support. Even if Paternity a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity (VDP) has been filed, custody, visitation and child support are not established until a court order has been entered.
The purpose of Paternity Mediation is to work out the terms of the custody, visitation, parenting and child support provisions that will go into the court documents. The mediator provides a summary of the terms, but the court forms need to be prepared by an attorney or by the parties through forms available through the court. As with divorcing parents, unmarried parents who go through mediation have the opportunity to address communication issues and to establish a foundation for cooperation. They may also choose to engage the services of a neutral child specialist. For the vast majority of families, if the parents mediate, the children receive the benefit of increased involvement and contact between the children and the non-residential parent. See section on Impact of divorce on children.