Child Custody Regarding Unwed Parents

Child Custody Regarding Unwed Parents

There are countless intricacies and nuances involved with custody battles. Outside of a divorce, even more questions can arise and make determination of child custody even more difficult. One of the trickier situations may be when the parents of a child are not married. In other words, the child is born out of wedlock, meaning that questions can arise in regards to custody, paternity, and visitation. A top divorce attorney Phoenix AZ relies on wants to help bring some clarity to these situations and what steps need to be taken for the parties involved and what this situation means for each parent.

Unmarried Parents

When it comes to child custody, there is never a question regarding who the mother of the child is. Because of this, a child born out of wedlock is the sole responsibility of the mother. Many states have made this the case until one of two other things happen: the father’s paternity is legally established and a court determines the custody question definitely. This means that the mother of the child has no burden of proof or obligation to prove they are the sole custodian. Rather, it falls to any contesting party to establish their rights and inclinations to have custody or visitation. This can cause disputes between the parents, but the father has options if they feel the need to pursue legal action for visitation or custody.

Establishing Paternity

In the case of the father, as is the case in many situations, establishing paternity is the first obstacle to hurdle. Until a man has proven that he is indeed the father of the child whose custody is in question, the mother will retain sole custody. A father has several options to establish his paternity and present it in a custody case, including:

  • Birth Certificate: Signing a birth certificate following the birth of a child will be a voluntary assumption of paternity. However, this may not be enough for a legal custody issue and could only be one requirement in a list used to establish paternity.
  • DNA Test: In the state of Arizona, for example, a DNA test that shows a 95% or higher likelihood of a match will often indicate that a man is the father of the child or children in question.

When a man establishes paternity, he can then stake his claim to child custody rights. Doing so will make a legal battle come down to best interest of the child, and is often only necessary when the parents do not have a cordial or civil relationship. However, if the parents can come to an agreement out of court, establishing paternity can be more than enough of a solution. The important thing to remember is that, in the case of fathers’ rights and family law, establishing paternity early can prevent countless other headaches and issues.

Other Familial Custody

In certain situations, family members that are not parents of the child in question may think that neither parent is qualified to care for the kids. Often this results from a set of grandparents or an aunt and uncle of the child noticing something others may not and asking the court for custody. In these cases, this will result in what is known in many states as third-party or non-parental child custody. This process is catalyzed by filing a petition that lays out certain necessary information including the relationship to the child and why they are taking these steps. This petition must be delivered to the court as well as the parents, so long as they are not missing or out of the picture.

When it comes to unwed parents, non-parental custody becomes more complex, as the question of paternity must be answered prior to the paternal side of the child’s family making any requests for custody. It also incorporates matters of a personal nature that may cause maternal grandparents or aunts to believe the mother is unfit or unable to care for the child, and thus the family will take steps to ensure the custody of the child is also what is in his or her best interest.

Child Support

Unwed parents will still find themselves subject to the issues associated with child support. Just because parents were not married before having a child together, the parent who does not have full-time child custody is still subject to child support per family law in many states. This can either be a private agreement between the two parents, or steps may be taken by the court to ensure the non-custodial parent is contributing, whether by court order, wage assignment, or another legal action.

When it comes to the question of child custody between unwed parents, there are numerous hoops to jump through. From grandparent and fathers’ rights to child support and separation questions, don’t try to resolve your legal issues alone.


HBThanks to our friends and contributors from Hildebrand Law for their insight into child custody regarding unwed parents.

Local: 410-539-5250
Toll Free: 888-529-9654
MAIN OFFICE: 6 E. Biddle Street, Baltimore, MD 21202-2702