Unmarried Child Custody Issue

By Steven Carlson -

What are the top issues unmarried parent’s faces when custody is disputed? Unmarried custody cases can present some different child custody issues than divorce cases where the parents were married. Fathers who were not married are often fighting for the right to have contact with their child and establish custody and visitation rights. Unmarried mothers are often fighting to establish a child support award against the father. While unwed parents face many of the same custody issues married parents struggle with, there are some additional challenges in the unmarried custody case – specifically for the unwed dad.

Unmarried Child Custody Issues for Fathers

Who gets custody of the child if the parents were never married? In most states, an unwed mother will be awarded sole physical custody unless the father establishes paternity and commences action to be awarded custody. Until then, the father is often left with very little he can do to gain access to his child unless the parents agree to it. If an unwed mother denies the father access to his children the father will often need to establish access through the family court, which generally includes establishing paternity and petitioning the court for parental rights and waiting for a judge to make decision. A father who was not married to the mother of his child rarely ever wins custody over the mother unless mom is found by a court to be completely unfit. And for younger children, the chances are often even less. There is still a heavy bias that favors mothers over fathers, especially with younger children. An unmarried father usually at best can only take the necessary steps to gain unmarried child custody and visitation rights through the courts — unless the mother is cooperative and agreeable out of court. The time and money involved for an unmarried father to gain rights to his child and to establish a parenting plan can often be extensive. Regardless, unmarried fathers should not be discouraged as more and more fathers petitioning the court for access to their children are being awarded joint custody with parenting plans that include the child living or spending a substantial amount of time with their father.

Unmarried Child Custody Issues for Mothers

With some statistics showing that most all child support cases involve the father paying support to the mother it’s easy to see why it is also the case in unmarried child custody cases that mom’s are often fighting to obtain a support award against the father. Generally, a finding of paternity is required in order for an unwed father to be forced to pay financial support of his child to the mother. Without a paternity finding by the court, it’s often difficult and in some cases impossible to force an unmarried father to pay child support. Voluntary child support payments by an unmarried father without a finding of a paternity may not be enforceable. In other words, if an unwed mother is relying on voluntary payments by dad without a finding of paternity then she may find herself in a tough situation if the father decides to stop paying voluntarily.

Unmarried custody cases can present different issues than divorce cases involving children. Unwed dads are often battling for child custody rights while unwed mothers are often fighting for financial support. Whether you’re the mother or father involved in a custody dispute, you’d do well to become educated on the subject of custody issues including custody determinations and modifications.

Copyright © 2009 Child Custody Coach(TM). All rights reserved.

Child Custody Coach ™ supplies child custody information, online materials, and coaching services to divorced and unmarried parents faced with custody and visitation agreement issues. Steven Carlson, The Custody Coach™, is the author of the win child custody E-Book, “How to Win Child Custody – Proven Strategies that can Win You Custody and Save You Thousands in Attorney Costs!” Mr. Carlson’s book has been reviewed by some of the foremost professionals in the field of custody, family law, and parent education.

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