The centerpiece of the governor's legislative agenda this year, a multifaceted effort to assure that fathers make their child-support payments, got a boost yesterday from a state Senate committee.
The Judicial Proceedings Committee unanimously sent to the full Senate a comprehensive child-support enforcement bill that includes among its provisions a measure to require unmarried fathers to acknowledge their paternity in writing within hours of the birth of their children.
The House Judiciary Committee killed a similar proposal last month, but aides to Gov. William Donald Schaefer say they hope that committee will reconsider the issue if the Senate sends over its bill.
Both House and Senate versions of the bill contain similar provisions to require that persons who have failed to make child-support payments be reported to credit agencies, and to make it easier for judges to order wage withholding for the payment of child support.
But the Senate bill, approved 11-0, goes further.
It includes a provision that would require judges to order retroactive child-support payments in some cases.
The paternity provision would require an unwed father to sign a notarized affidavit listing his child's name, place and date of birth, and also stipulates that the form must explain parental rights and responsibilities. The mother of the child also would be required to sign the form.
The original administration proposal would have required the parents to sign the form under oath and it would have had the legal weight of a court order. The Senate version, however, leaves open the possibility that someone who signed such a form could later challenge its accuracy by offering contradictory evidence, such as a blood test.