Stuff happens. Maybe you were in a relationship with a lady and things didn’t work out. Maybe you got back together with your ex-wife and things didn’t end up working out.

Whatever the case, your ex is pregnant with your baby and you’re not married.

What do you do?

Honestly, there are a thousand different answers to this question.

You can do nothing, don’t see your kid, and generally never get involved. That option is pretty unpalatable to most men, however, because they want to care for their children and be involved dads.

On the other hand, you can marry your ex and be together with her and your baby.

Let’s assume for a second that neither of those options are in the cards for you. You want to be involved, but you know marrying your ex won’t work.

With that in mind, what do you do?

We’ve helped hundreds of Utah guys in this exact situation, and here’s the plan we suggest:

1. File for paternity, and do it before your ex gives birth.

Filing for paternity is how you tell the court you’re dad and you want to be involved in your child’s life. When you file, you discuss child custody, parent-time, child support, etc. Essentially, you’re laying out a plan so you can be the kind of dad you want to be.

And why file before she gives birth? Because in Utah, unless you’ve jumped through a whole bunch of hoops not even most lawyers can figure out, your ex can adopt out your baby without informing you. That and she can move out of Utah without giving you any notice. Don’t take chances; file before she gives birth.

2. Start paying child support the month your baby is born.

Nothing annoys a court more than unmarried guys who don’t pay child support, but want a whole bunch of time with their kids. If you don’t pay child support, the court will, rightly or wrongly, assume you’re a deadbeat, which will make getting good parent-time more difficult.

You don’t need to pay exactly what the court would tell you to pay in child support. Estimate it, but make sure you pay. If you want a round monthly child support number that will probably be okay if not 100% right, pay $300.

3. Take as much time as you possibly can with your baby.

If you have an afternoon off, ask to see your baby. If your ex offers to let you take your child for an hour, you take it. Do everything you can to show that you can handle as much time as possible.

4. Make sure you have a work schedule that allows you to have time with your child.

If you work from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. and sleep from 4 a.m. to 1 p.m., you’re not getting much time with your child. Same with crazy alternating work shifts, or jobs that require tons of irregular travel.

Try to get a job with the most vanilla schedule possible: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 5 p.m.

If that means you make less money, think of it as a trade-off so you can spend more time with you kid. You won’t regret the trade-off.

5. Maintain a good relationship with your ex.

Look, you don’t particularly like your ex, or you’d probably still be with her. Despite that, you’ll be at this parenting thing a long time, and it’s much easier to parent with someone you have a good relationship with. That and it’s easier to get more parent time if your ex doesn’t hate you.

There’s more to It than This, but . . .

There’s obviously more to a successful paternity can than what I’ve written above, but this is a good start.

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