What Parental Rights Do Unmarried Parents Have? Here are the Facts.

Do you have a child out of wedlock? Wondering who has custody of a child when the parents are not married? We’re here to help! Child custody can be complicated, especially when the parents are unmarried. In this article, we’re covering the ins and outs of the parental rights of unmarried parents. So you can better understand what to expect if you’re dealing with this scenario.

Who Has Custody of a Child When the Parents are Not Married?

Generally speaking, if an unmarried woman gives birth to a child, she is the child’s sole residential parent and legal custodian. That is until a court issues an order designating another person as such.

As the residential parent and legal custodian,  the mother has the following rights:

  • Right to restrict visitation
  • Freedom to decide who sees the child
  • Right to obtain medical treatment
  • Right to enroll the child in school

The mother also has the right to decide the home residence, childcare, vacation, and travel. In addition, she has any rights associated with legal custody.

What Rights Does the Unmarried Father Have?

In the ideal scenario, if a father wants to be a part of his child’s life, he can agree on custody and visitation with the mother. And if his name is on the child’s birth certificate, he has equal parental rights.

Things become more complicated if the father is not married to the mother and not listed on the birth certificate. In this scenario, he must prove paternity and then show the court he is suitable for taking on parental rights.

In California, a Declaration of Paternity is the legal way of establishing paternity. If an unmarried father signs this declaration, he gains the same rights and privileges that a father would be granted within a marriage. Once this legal paternity is established, both parents have equal custody rights and child support obligations.

It’s important to note, however, that if the unmarried father does not live with the mother, he probably won’t be granted primary physical custody of the child. Primary custody usually goes to the mother as long they are deemed to be a good parent.

But by proving their paternity and competency, they can pursue legally binding shared custody agreements and visitation schedules.

What Role Does Child Support Play for Unmarried Parents?

Both parents are required to financially support their children regardless of whether or not they’re married. Therefore, the court usually evaluates the contribution of each parent by reviewing their income and responsibilities regarding the child’s needs.

Generally speaking, if a child lives with one parent for most of their time, the other parent must pay child support. However, if you believe you’re owed child support from the other parent, you pursue legal means to force that other parent to contribute.

Live in California? Review this child custody unmarried parents resource to see how California handles these proceedings.

Having a Child Out of Wedlock?

Are you and your partner having a child out of wedlock? If so, should you have open and honest communication about custody of your child? By reviewing this article and knowing the answer to “who has custody of a child when the parents are not married?” you can do what’s in your child’s best interest.

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