Helping Families for 25+ Years

What Rights Do Unmarried Parents Have?

Unmarried parents often have to face many of the same legal challenges that married parents do when it comes to child custody issues. Although child custody laws vary in each state, being the mother or father of the child remains a major consideration when determining custody arrangements. In this blog, we explain custody rights for unmarried parents.

Mother's Primary Right to Custody

Mothers who are unmarried are presumed to have the primary or natural right to custody of the children they give birth to while they are unmarried. This means the mother has the legal right to custody, care, and control over the child and her rights are superior to the father’s or any other person petitioning for custody. However, a mother’s rights can be rescinded if it can be established that she is mentally or physically unfit or has abandoned the child.

Father's Custody Rights

In most states, a father has equal standing in court if their name is on the child’s birth certificate. If a father doesn’t have his name on the birth certificate, his rights will depend on his ability to prove that he is suitable to have custody. If a mother is a good parent, an unmarried father can’t usually win primary physical custody, though they can be granted visitation rights and other forms of custody.

Common Issues for Unmarried Parents Who Live Together

Parents who live together but have yet to “tie the knot” commonly face the following issues:

  • Proving paternity
  • Qualifying their children for government benefits, insurance, and other policies
  • Child custody and visitation if they break up

Can a Custodial Parent Receive Child Support If They Are Unmarried?

Custodial parents can get child support depending on the needs of the children and the income of the parents, not their marital status. However, when a stepparent adopts a child, the biological parents no longer have financial obligations to the child.

Can Unmarried Parents Claim a Child as a Dependent on Their Taxes?  

Only one parent can claim a child as a dependent if the couple is unmarried. Parents should evaluate their income, custody, and financial needs to determine which parent should claim a child.

Do you have more questions about what rights unmarried parents have? Contact our Granite Bay family law lawyers to request a consultation with our legal team today.