Unmarried parents face many legal challenges when it comes to child custody issues.
First off, the mother of the child has the primary right to custody, even without marriage. It is the mother who has the legal right to the custody and care of her child. A birth mother’s right is superior to the father’s.
But the mother’s custody rights can be contested if she is deemed unfit to care for her child.
As a mother, under normal circumstances, you have the right to your child if:
- you have never married since the birth of your child
- you were unmarried to anyone else during the birth of your child
- There you received no court orders about child custody or visitation
But the law states that an unmarried woman automatically has custody of the child. No court has to determine whether you have legal custody of the child if all of the above rings true.
What this means is that:
- You have the right to decide who sees the child
- You have the right to restrict who sees the child
- You have the right to dictate how long anyone sees your child
- You have the right to enroll your child in school
- You have the right to obtain medical treatment
- You have the right to get public benefits for the child
What About the Father’s Custody Rights?
As mentioned earlier, a father can be awarded custody of the child if the mother is unfit to care for the child. An unwed father cannot win primary physical custody over a good mother. The least he can do is to establish some custody or visitation rights.
A father may also be awarded custody rights if his name is on the birth certificate. The name in the birth certificate means the father has a standing in court.
Custody Legal Advice for Unwed Fathers: Establish Paternity
When a child is born outside of marriage, there is no legal presumption of paternity. Without establishing paternity, the father has no legal standing. What this means is he has no right to visitation and shared custody of the child. He also cannot make decisions about the child’s welfare.
The way to establish paternity is to include your name in the birth certificate by being with the mother when the baby is born and helping complete the birth certificate form. Another option is for the father to complete a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form.
Rulings For Child Custody or Visitation Rights
If the father files for custody in court, the court will give each parent the opportunity to prove who is more fitting to have custody of the child. In a child custody case, the best interests of the child are front and center.
The court will consider some other factors such as the moral character and the financial status of the parents and if possible, the child’s preference.
The court will rule on who it deems the parent who will meet the needs of the child best.
There are factors that the court will consider such as:
- Who does the feeding
- Who bathes the child
- Who brings the child to school
- Who helps with the child’s homework
- Who lulls the child to sleep
The court will also consider:
- The mental health of the parent
- The physical condition of the parent
- Any history of domestic abuse
- The child’s relationship with other relatives
- Payment of child support
Can the Primary Custodial Parent Receive Child Support?
Yes, it is possible. Child support will depend on the child’s needs and not the legal status of the parents. The amount will depend on the financial situation of the parent – based on the income of the parent.
Child support is not necessary in the case of adoption. The biological parents of the child will no longer have any obligation to the child.
Seek Legal Help From a Child Custody Attorney
Child custody battles can be a thorny mess. It involves complex issues that are made worse by the emotions involved.
A reputable child custody lawyer can give you child custody legal advice as early as the initial consultation. A custody lawyer will help you defend your claims in a child custody legal battle.
Do your research and ask friends and family members, ask for advice from the court clerks.