Understanding Parental Rights of Unmarried Couples

Child custody cases are typically complicated even at the best of times. The range of questions, concerns, disagreements, and frustrations that are normally involved in these types of disputes can be extremely difficult to navigate. When parents are unmarried though, the process of establishing clear parental rights can be even more problematic, and things like custody, visitation rights, and even child support will be even trickier to define.

In most situations, two people who have a child out of wedlock will face a situation where custody is awarded to the mother right away. It is important to keep in mind though, that the father is fully capable of pursuing custody by legal means using a variety of legitimate concerns. If you are facing this type of situation, then your best option is to immediately seek representation by a knowledgeable and experienced law firm like Davis, Ermis & Roberts to be sure that every possible action is being taken to prevent an unfavorable decision during court proceedings.

To help individuals gain a clearer understanding of their rights as parents, our team has decided to outline some of the general rules and guidelines relating to the custody of children whose parents are unmarried. Having a solid grasp of your rights and responsibilities can help you make an informed decision while building a stronger case that will increase the likelihood of a desirable outcome in any proceedings.

The Rights of a Mother

In many cases, unmarried and married parents are likely to face the same legal problems when it comes to their children. Unfortunately, existing laws can make proceedings involving unmarried parents more complicated. As a basic rule though, unmarried mothers are given primary custody of their children, and she will have total and complete authority to make major and minor decisions concerning the child’s welfare.

A mother who is granted legal and physical custody of a child is responsible for many decisions including:

  • A child’s place of residence
  • Desired school
  • Healthcare
  • Sports and extracurricular activities
  • Travel and vacation plans
  • Much more

Ultimately the mother is responsible for every decision in the life of a child from a legal standpoint. It is important to keep in mind that this situation could potentially change based on the final decision of any ongoing court proceedings.

The Rights of the Father

For unmarried fathers who hope to be directly involved in the lives of their children, the path can be difficult. For fathers who are seeking to establish shared custody or visitation rights, proof of paternity must be established first and foremost. The most effective way to do this is if their name is written on the birth certificate of the child. If this is the case, then the father’s parental rights will hold equal weight to the mother’s own rights in the eyes of a court. If there is not a name for the father on a child’s birth certificate, then paternity must first be proven in some way before any further proceedings can take place.

After proving paternity, the father is then expected to prove that he is a capable, suitable parent. In many cases, a single father can not expect to be granted primary physical custody of a child in situations where the mother is already seen as a “good” parent in the eyes of the court. Fathers can hope to establish legally binding agreements for shared custody or visitation rights though based on the strength of their case.

Handling Child Support

Even if they are not married, both parents are still expected to financially support their children. In most cases, a court will evaluate the income and responsibilities of each parent to determine the contributions of the parents against the needs of the child. If a parent finds themselves facing unexpected financial hardships though, such as job loss, then there is a possibility that their support expectations could be re-evaluated upon request.

In most cases, if the child spends most of their time with a specific parent, then the other parent will likely be expected to make support payments. Parents who feel that they are owed support payments have the option of pursuing compensation through legal means by requesting court-ordered payments.

Work with a Team you can Trust

If you are an unmarried parent struggling with what to do about your child, then your first step should be to contact our team at Davis, Ermis & Roberts so we can work together to create an effective plan. To find out more about our services, or to schedule an appointment for a consultation, don’t hesitate to contact us right away!