Not Married with Children—What about Child Custody?

If you have a child with your partner—what rights do you have to custody?

Parenting trends continue to shift in the US. Research shows a continuing decline in the number of couples getting married and an increase in the number of children being raised by parents who are not married.  In the past, having a child “out of wedlock” was considered detrimental because the child was often raised in a single-parent household that tended to coincide with a lower socio-economic status. Today, that’s not the case.

Whether married or unmarried, partners are choosing to start families. Unfortunately, partnerships sometimes end. For couples who are unmarried, a divorce is not necessary, but the paperwork and challenges around child custody will be similar.

If you are not married to your partner, but are considering a permanent separation, it is important to understand the legal rules around child custody before you decide to split.

Child custody in Maryland for unmarried parents

If you are unmarried, the court automatically gives custody of the child to the mother, unless the father can prove his paternity. If paternity is proven, as with a married couple, the court will weigh what’s in the best interests and rights of the child, without regard to the parents’ gender. Even if the child lives in the same residence as the father, paternity must be established and accepted before the court will acknowledge his parenting rights and obligations.

A father can establish paternity by:

  • Providing a birth certificate where he is named as the father. When a father’s name is listed on a birth certificate, the court accepts this as prima facia evidence of paternity.
  • Providing a genetic test that proves paternity of a child.
  • Acknowledging his paternity in writing, so long as the claim of paternity is supported by the mother of the child.

For many cohabiting couples, the hurdle of paternity will be easy to overcome. The challenge will lie in establishing a plan of support for the child after the separation is mutually agreed upon. This may involve numerous discussions and potential legal action to arrive at a plan that works for the parents and is in the best interest of their child.

Whether you are married or unmarried. If you have a child and are planning to separate, get straightforward advice on your legal options and obligations to make the best decision for you and your child.

Get help from an experienced divorce attorney in Baltimore today

Located in Stevenson, the Law Offices of Allyson B. Goldscher, LLC deliver skilled legal counsel and dedicated personal service to individuals and families throughout Baltimore and Baltimore County.  When you have questions about divorce, property division or child custody, call 410-602-9522, or contact us today.

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