Unmarried Child Custody




Unmarried child custody; single unmarried mother's rights.

Separating a family is always a difficult task, whether the parents were officially married or not. Yet, there is always some nervousness for parents separating from a partner that they had children with but were never married. Will they still have the same rights as a married parent? Will they still be eligible for child support?


It is understandable to be worried about these things. If you find yourself in this position you can relax. Unmarried child custody cases are handled in much the same manner as married cases. You may not have to worry about the long court battle that goes along with getting divorced. But you will have the same rights to your child that any married parent going through a divorce would have.



Custody Disputes

The best case scenario is to work with your ex to come to a custody agreement out of court. If you can both look at it from the perspective of your child and keep their best interest at heart without the bitterness you may feel toward one another, then the process of getting the custody order can be completed much faster.


If you feel you can't communicate with your ex, consider working the custody and visitation schedule out through lawyers. If you can come to an agreement that suits you both, then the agreement can be taken into court and quickly finalized.


There is also the option of going through mediation with a court official to try to work out an agreement. But if that fails the dispute will go to court where the final decision on who has full custody or if it is to be split between the parents will be made. A visitation schedule will also have to be worked out so everyone is clear on who has the child when.



Visitation Rights

Child support and visitation rights are two separate issues and should never be mixed together. That means if one parent misses child support payments the other parent cannot legally stop their visitation rights. Each parent has equal rights to see the child and the non-custodial parent will have a detailed visitation schedule so they know when they can see their child and when they must hand them back over to the other parent.



Child Support

Child support is usually determined based on the earnings of each parent and how much time each parent has the child. In many states, a parent who does not work but is able to work will be presumed as working a minimum wage job, rather than being noted as making nothing. This makes the child support fairer. Every state has different laws on penalties for nonpayment of child support and these laws apply equally to married and unmarried parents.



Special Circumstances

There may be special circumstances which prevent one parent from having full custody or even from having visitation rights alone with the child. These circumstances must be proven through the court and a judge must agree that contact with the child should be monitored or eliminated altogether.


Paternity can also be a special consideration in an unmarried child custody battle. If both parents acknowledge paternity proceedings go on as usual, but when one parent claims to not be the biological parent a paternity test must first prove their paternity.



Additional Resource

State Child Custody Law Reports




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