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Custody Without Marriage: What You Should Know

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When it comes to ending a relationship where children are involved, one of the most difficult parts is dealing with custody. When you are not married, custody can be more difficult to deal with. In some circumstances, the mother of the children assumes the children will automatically go to her, with the father having to pursue custody. While this is common, it is not always the case. Here are some things to know about custody when the parents are unmarried:

The Mother's Rights

In many cases, the mother gains automatic custody of the children when no marriage has taken place. This means the mother has the bulk of the decision-making power for the child. The decisions include where the kids will live, their religious activities, where they go to school, decisions on their healthcare needs, and the like.

The Father's Rights

When the end of the relationship is amicable between the mother and father, the father should have no issue working out an arrangement in which he can see his children a reasonable amount of time. If the end of the relationship was not amicable, it may be more difficult to come to an agreement when it comes to the children, especially if the father's name is not listed on the birth certificate. If this happens, the father has to establish paternity first before he can even begin pursuing custody.

After the father's paternity is established, he will need to prove to the court that he is capable of having custody of the children. As long as he can prove he is a regular fixture in the children's lives, the custody arrangement can be changed to reflect the father's custody time. If the father is having trouble getting joint custody of his children, he should work with a family law attorney immediately.

Child Support

No matter if a marriage happened or not, both parents have a responsibility to financially support their children. The judge presiding over the custody hearing will evaluate each parent's financial situation to determine how much money each should contribute to the child's needs. This may end up with one parent paying the other a sum of money each month. If you have equal custody, neither parent may have to pay, as you are equally contributing to your child's expenses. If either parent's financial circumstances change, he or she can go back to court and request a child support modification.

No matter if you were married or not, both parents need to do what is best for the children when it comes to custody and child support. Always be sure to work with a child custody attorney to help navigate you through this process.