Child Custody Laws For Unmarried Parents
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Who Gets Custody of a Child when the Parents Are Not Married?
In some cases, child custody may become an issue for parents who have not yet been married. For instance, they may be undergoing a split, a change of residence, or other issues that might affect custody and visitation of the child. Here, the parents should obtain a formal child custody order from the court if they haven’t done so already. While informal agreements can happen, it’s much more advisable to have the parties draft an agreement and have it approved by the court so that the arrangement is enforceable under law.
How Is Parentage Determined?
If the parents were married, the court will assume the child belongs to the married couple unless the unmarried parent can show why the court should fracture the marital structure.
If both parents are unmarried, then the court must determine who the parents are. Although a blood test can determine biological paternity, legal parentage can be determined based on non-biological factors. These factors may include:
- The names of the parents on the birth certificate.
- Whether each parent has acted as a parent and as presented him or herself as a parent to the child to outsiders.
Once parentage is determined, the court can then determine which parent should have custody and how much visitation should be given to each parent.
How Is Custody Determined?
Traditionally, courts granted the mother physical custody while the father was responsible for providing child support. Modernly, some jurisdictions do not always make this presumption and sometimes base the custody arrangement on the background and capabilities of the unmarried parents, along with the child’s needs.
In all custody and visitation determinations, the child’s best interests are always considered first. These types of determinations are basically the same for couples undergoing divorce or legal separation. Courts may use various factors to allocate custody and visitation rights, including:
- Each parent’s mental, psychological, and physical health
- The financial background and capabilities of each parent
- Whether there are any instance of abuse or domestic violence with either parent (with each other or with the child)
- Whether either party has a criminal record
- The nature of each parent’s relation to the child up to that point
- Any special needs that the child may hold
What Type of Custody Can I Expect?
Child custody determinations generally involve formal hearings; many custody orders are also issued in connection with other legal proceedings. The judge may order one of many different types of child custody, such as sole custody for one parent, joint custody, or other types of arrangements.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Child Custody Issues?
Child custody determinations can have a major effect on a child’s upbringing. It’s in your best interests to hire a child custody law attorney in your area if you need help with any custody matters. Your attorney can help determine what’s best for child or children, and can also review which course of action is available for you. In the event of a lawsuit or legal dispute, your attorney can provide legal representation during hearings.
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Last Modified: 01-06-2017 12:23 PM PST
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