Unmarried Parents and Child Custody – Common Questions and Answers
When an unmarried couple with children decides to separate, there are many questions about child custody. This article looks at some of the common custody questions that unmarried parents have and answers them. Hopefully this will help some unmarried couples who are beginning the child custody process.
What if my child’s father won’t acknowledge he is the father? If the father of your child doesn’t know or won’t acknowledge that he is the father, the mother can file a paternity claim. For a paternity claim, the father and child will both take a DNA test to see if they match. If there is a match, the father is given paternity of the child–along with the rights and responsibilities of paternity.
How do we work out the custody situation? Unmarried couples use the same legal avenues that married couples do to work out custody.
One of the parents files for custody and the other parent responds. This opens a court case. Then the parents will go before the family court to get a custody order. The custody order makes your custody agreement a legally binding document.
How do we work out a custody agreement? The best way to get a custody order you want is for both parents to come to an agreement about their parenting plan. If it’s at all possible, the parents should sit down together and make up a document that outlines the custody and visitation schedule, a holiday schedule and any parenting provisions that are important. The mother and father can then present this to the court and it will be accepted.
What if the parents don’t agree about custody? If the parents can’t come to an agreement, they can consider going to mediation.
If things don’t work in mediation, then both parents should prepare to present their case before the court. The court will listen to both sides and then come up with an agreement that they think is in the child’s best interest.
If the parents aren’t married, does child support have to be paid? Even if the parents aren’t married, child support is still required. Usually the father pays child support, but that is only if the child is living with the mother. If the child is living with the father, the mother should pay. In order to get child support payments started, the parent must file for child support at the courthouse.
Nothing is really different when an unmarried couple has to work out child custody. The parents should still look out for the child and do whatever is in the child’s best interest. If both parents put that first, they should be able to work things out.