Unmarried Couples and Child Custody

Parental rights and child custody are important issues for any parent. For married couples, much of the potential conflict surrounding custody is a non-issue because both partners in the marriage are given equal parental status. There is less often a question of paternity, and even if the marriage ends in separation or divorce, both parents still usually have custody and / or visitation rights. For unmarried couples, however, the issue of having a child can be much more complicated. Fathers and partners in a couple must take extra steps to assure that they are granted legal parental status in an unmarried relationship.

The Unmarried Option

Many couples today are deciding to temporarily or completely pass on getting married. They may choose to delay a marriage or not get married at all for personal, work-related, or financial reasons. In the case of a gay couple, many states still do not recognize gay marriages or civil unions as legal. Whether it is a choice or a forced option, it is important for unmarried couples to take steps to establish their legal status as parents if they have a child. Taking immediate action to become a legal parent can prevent much personal grief later on.

Legal Issues in Child Custody

When a child is born to an unmarried mother, the mother initially has sole legal custody of the child. If the father wishes to be recognized as a legal parent, he must sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity after the baby is born. This can be done at the hospital and ensures that the father is granted full legal status as a parent. In a lesbian relationship, the woman who is not the biological mother must go through the more complicated process of adopting the child. For two unmarried women, legal adoption is currently the only way for a partner to establish herself as a parent.

Establishing child custody is a crucial part of being a parent. Without legal parental rights, a parent may not be recognized by the state and may not be permitted to care for the child in crucial situations. For example, if a child is injured and taken to the hospital, the unmarried father or partner may not be granted visitation to see his or her child. Having joint custody and parental rights helps to prevent these situations from being decided based on a technicality.

Protecting Your Family

While legal issues for an unmarried family may be different than those for married couples, this does not mean that they are any less important. If you are in an unmarried relationship and have or are considering having a child, it is important to take steps to protect your family by legally establishing your role as a parent. Whether you remain in a lifelong relationship or your relationship eventually ends, your parental status will help you to protect your legal custodial and visitation rights.

For More Information

Learn more about To important 's legal – issues for unmarried couples with children, please visit the website of Austin family lawyers Slater Kennon & Jameson, LLP today.

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Joseph Devine

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