When it comes to child custody, unmarried parents face many of the same challenges that married parents do. Depending on whether you are the mother or father of the child, the child custody laws will differ. Take, for instance, the following:
Mothers: When a mother is unmarried and in the midst of a custody battle, she is presumed to have the primary or natural right to the child. This means that she has a legal right to custody, care, and control over the child. However, if the mother is unfit or abandoned the child, these rights can be relinquished.
Fathers: If a father is unmarried, he has the choice to take action to gain custody. If the father’s name is on the birth certificate, he is then seen as the child’s father and will have standing in the court just as the mother does. An unwed father cannot win primary physical custody over a mother who is a good parent, but he may be able to retain some custody or visitation rights.
When the courts look at custody matters between unwed parents, they will look at the best interest of the child. They will consider who the primary caregiver is, the moral character of both parents, financial status, and more. For parents who are unwed, there are some common issues that the court sees. These include having to prove paternity, choosing a name that can be agreed upon, making sure the child can qualify for benefits, and child custody when the parents break up.
The Matter of Parents in Different States and Child Support
If the unmarried parents reside in different states, difficult decisions come into play. In interstate custody decisions, the child’s home state will usually hear the state. This is the state where the child has stayed for the last six months. A determination will be made by the court.
As for child support, it is always based upon the needs of the children and income of the parents. This has very little to do with the marital status of the parents. If the stepparent adopts a child, however, the biological parent will no longer have an obligation to support the child financially.
If you are confused about how these custody matters work, you should speak to an experienced custody attorney today. You may have many questions if you are an unmarried mother or father to a child in your life.