If you find yourself as an unwed parent working through child custody, there are several things you need to know that will help you through the process. The custody process is often very complicated, married or unmarried. However, parental rights like visitation become even more so when the parents are not married. Complicated or not, these issues are of vital importance to the well-being of your child. No matter the circumstances, it is important to seek the best solution for the benefit of your child and their lives.
As you begin to work through the process of distinguishing rights for parents, remember that different cases and circumstances may result in different applications of these guidelines. But, these guidelines will generally apply to most cases of child support. Be sure to check with your state’s regulations to see if any exceptions or differences apply.
What are Parental Rights and Responsibility?
In short, parental rights and responsibilities legally refer to caring for the child, establishing and having regular contact with the child, assisting in the maintenance of the child, and acting as guardian to the child. More specifically, however, parents, married or unmarried, will work through the topics of child support, custody, and visitation rights.
Both parents will have certain rights available to them, but some of them are more complicated to establish than others. Ultimately, no matter how other issues of custody pan out, both parents are responsible to support the child financially, so you may need to calculate the child support you would owe. These numbers will fluctuate depending on each parent’s income and other factors regarding their financial status.
Visitation and Custody
Other issues include visitation and custody. If both parents are recognized as legal parents, a court may order joint shared custody. If not, and one parent is granted as the primary caretaker of the child, the other parent may be granted visitation rights, which can include various different amounts of time and occasions with the child, unless visitation rights are deemed as harmful to the child for specific reasons.
So, what are your individual rights as a mother or father? Regardless of the big issues, what can you expect as one of the parents of your child?
Mothers in an unmarried household will automatically be deemed primary custodian of a child and have complete authority for all decisions concerning their care. This will include decisions like where the child lives, their schooling preferences, extracurricular activities, and health care.
Establishing paternity is the first step to gaining paternal rights. As a best case scenario, fathers who are able to sign the birth certificate will have equal rights as the birth mother. But, if a father is not able to sign the birth certificate for some reason, your state might have a separate form to fill out. But be careful! Specific states might have deadlines about how and when fathers can file this paperwork before it is too late, so knowing your local laws and guidelines will be helpful to make the process as smooth as possible. Only after he has proved paternity can he advocate for rights regarding the care of the child.
Don’t forget about Local Laws
Unmarried parents must carefully consider local laws regarding this issue, as they may change from place to place. In addition, they must not compare their situation with other parents who are married — the legal process might be longer or more difficult. Nevertheless, ensuring your rights, and the wellbeing of your child, is surely worth it.