How is child custody handled when you’re not married?

Married or not, one thing remains the same – when you split up, it’s important for your kids’ current and future well-being that you try to reach a compromise about issues regarding custody, visitation and support. Doing this in an amicable way may be difficult, but getting along civilly is the best gift you can give your child.

Many people believe that children automatically stay with their mother when unmarried couples have a baby. The fact is, Pennsylvania child custody laws are the same for all parents regardless of marital status. If parents can’t agree on a custody agreement, a family court judge will make a custody decision based on the best interest of the child.

What are my rights as an unmarried mother?

The rights you have as an unmarried mother are the same as married mothers. You can be on the child’s birth certificate, provide care for the child, and make important life decisions. Your marital status will not impact your physical and legal custody of the child.

If your situation involves a paternity test, the biological father can ask for the other parental rights on top of the child support he owes. Your child’s father can seek physical and legal custody once paternity is finalized.

What are my rights as an unmarried father?

Your marital status with your child’s mother does not diminish the rights you have as a father. You can be on the birth certificate and seek physical and legal custody of the child. If you are amicable with each other, you can then establish paternity voluntarily at the child’s birth. You can also figure out how you will co-parent and make other arrangements on your own.

It may be wise to seek legal help if visitation becomes problematic and affects your relationship with your child. Establishing paternity through the court also allows you to prove your rights as the biological father. Before asking for any custody, you’ll need to fully establish paternity.

You may encounter unforeseen circumstances when navigating your rights as an unmarried parent. If you need guidance, a skilled family attorney can help you throughout the process.


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