When a mother has a newborn, that mother will automatically have all of the legal parental rights and responsibilities of a mother who was married. These include the right to physical custody and the responsibility to support the child financially and emotionally.
Statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that 39.2 percent of children are born to unmarried mothers. As this becomes more and more common, it is important for parents to understand who gets custody of a child if they were not married.
You might be aware that parents who are divorcing must decide how they will share custody of minor children as part of their legal case. However, how do parents divide custody if they were never married and have no need to file a divorce case?
It can be more complicated for an unmarried father, however, as he is not automatically assumed to be the father of the child. Instead, legal paternity must be established if the father wishes to have parental rights, such as custody. Paternity can be established voluntarily with minimal paperwork, as long as both parents agree.
On the other hand, if one parent challenges who is the father of the child, it might be necessary to file a paternity case in family court. Either the mother or father can bring or challenge a paternity petition. The judge will likely order a DNA test and will issue a paternity order – or not – accordingly.
If no legal action is taken by an unmarried father to establish legal paternity, a mother will get default custody rights. This means she will have full rights to have the child live with her, travel with her, and for her make major and day-to-day decisions for the child. However, if paternity is established – voluntarily or by court order – the father can request custody rights, as well.
There are different types of custody, including:
Parents have the opportunity to decide how to share custody. They can engage in informal negotiations with their attorneys or participate in mediation. If they reach an agreement, the court will review the agreement and can approve it. If parents cannot agree, the court will decide how they will share custody based on what is in the best interests of the child.
Whether you need to establish paternity or resolve child custody, it is important to have the right Annapolis child custody lawyer on your side. The Law Office of Patrick Crawford represents both divorcing and unmarried parents in custody cases, so please do not hesitate to call (410) 216-7905 or contact us online for more information.