If you’re an unmarried mother, it’s only normal for you to
wonder about your child’s father’s
custody rights to his child. Does he have any custody rights? Can he insist on
seeing his child or the child spending the night at his house? Can he
make important decisions on his child’s behalf? Can you ask him
for money to help support his child?
In a nutshell: If you’re an unmarried mother and paternity was never
established, you have sole legal and physical custody of your child. “Legal
custody” refers to having the power to make important decisions
about your child’s health, education, religious upbringing, medical
care, where your child lives, and anything else important related to your
child. “Physical custody” refers to your child physically
being in your care and control.
This article applies to you assuming:
- You never married the child’s father
- You were not married to anyone when your child was born
- There is no court order granting anyone custody or visitation of your child
If any of the above facts are not true, the information in this article
may not apply to you. For this information to be applicable, all of the
above must apply to you.
A Message for Unmarried Mothers
If after reading the above you realize that you have sole legal and physical
custody of your child, you actually have custody without having to go to court.
This means you have the right to decide who sees your child and for how
long, you have the right to restrict visitation, the right to enroll your
son or daughter in daycare or school, the right to get your child medical
treatment, the right to apply for public benefits for your child, and
you have the right to do anything else that any parent with legal custody could do.
However, just because you have custody, it doesn’t mean the courts
can’t decide on custody at a future date because they can. If the
child’s father asks for a paternity test and it’s confirmed
that your child is his, it’s within his right to seek custody and
visitation, and the court can order him to pay child support. Without
confirmed paternity, the court cannot issue a
child support order.
If the child’s father asks for custody
paternity is confirmed, the court will carefully consider the facts of the case.
Under the law, the court has to give each parent an equal opportunity
to be considered in a child custody case. Essentially, the court will
issue a decision based on the best interests of the child.
If you need legal assistance with a paternity or child custody case,
contact Claery & Hammond, LLP to schedule a
free case evaluation!