Unmarried Couple with Child Splitting Up

Unmarried Couple with Child Splitting Up

Determining custody for an unmarried couple with a child splitting up requires a lot of consideration. In some ways, when an unmarried couple separates, the process is simpler than it is for married couples. A divorcing married couple has to separate their assets and property and has to inform the court of each of the decisions they make.

Unmarried couples only have to make a practical arrangement of how they would like to divide up anything they bought together and do not need the court to sign off. However, when unmarried parents divorce, there are often many more steps that need to be involved to ensure that both parents get to spend time with the child or children, yet they do not always have the court to keep these agreements in place with a former partner. This article will look at splitting up with children for unmarried parents.

The Difference with Unmarried Parents

Some unique challenges affect unmarried couples as they split up. Because there are no divorce proceedings to rely on, the couple will usually need to be more proactive in determining how the separation will affect the child’s life and starting court proceedings if necessary to determine custody and whether either party needs to pay child support. This can involve time and money in family court and impact parents and children significantly.

There may also be challenges in establishing that the parties are the legal parents of the children, particularly for fathers. In many states, when parents are not married, the parent who does not give birth is only labeled a legal parent if they are listed on the birth certificate. This means that the law will likely assume that the child’s mother will have full custody unless the father asserts their legal rights. A court order determining that the biological parents are the legal parents of the child may need to be the first step.

Child Custody

The next step in the process will be to start working on a custody agreement that will determine how much the child lives with each parent and how much say each parent has in deciding for the child. If a court is deciding a custody case, they will look at the best interests of the child for their present and future well-being. The best interests standard is a list of factors that will influence how well the parent can raise the child. It is important to note that other family members do not have custody rights in the same way that the parents do, but they can be given visitation rights to see the children.

There are two types of custody that unwed parents need to consider or the courts will decide in custody cases.

Legal Custody

The first type of custody is legal custody, which is the ability to decide on key issues for the child’s well-being. This can include choosing the schools they attend, the doctors they visit, and health care decisions if necessary. Most states will assume that parents will want joint legal custody rights, meaning that they both have a say in these decisions., and many parents will agree that this is the best option. However, in some cases, it may be easier or better to have one parent making these decisions, and that parent will have sole legal custody.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is the time that the child will spend with either parent. Typically, family law will assume an even 50-50 split between the parents, but this time sharing arrangement may not work for some families depending on the situation. In every other situation that is not an even 50-50 split, there will be a parent with primary custody and a parent with partial custody, which will end up affecting child support payments later on. However, the parties will need to create a plan that makes sense to them and the needs of the child.

Noncustodial Parent

In some cases, particularly those where domestic violence or abuse is involved, one parent may ask for the other parent to be given no custody because of extreme circumstances that make it unsafe for the child to live with that parent. If the unmarried partner is considered the legal parent of the child, it may be difficult to make them a non-custodial parent, but if the circumstances require protecting the children in that way, the judge will likely order it.

In these cases, the parent may still be given visitation rights and a parenting plan to essentially earn back the ability to care for their children. Visitation is usually conducted around a professional or other trusted family members to ensure the child’s safety and well-being. Once a noncustodial parent satisfactorily completes their parenting plan, they will usually have a stepped scale to full custody.

Child Support Obligations

If a court action or mediation determines custody of the children, the court will next order child support to be paid between the parents. Child support is an amount of money that the parent with partial custody will pay to the parent with more time for the expenses associated with raising the children. This support allows the other parent to focus their time on keeping the children well cared for.

There are many considerations that a court will take into account when ordering support, particularly whether one partner makes significantly more than the other, who has more parenting time with the kids. They will also see if there are county benefits or special medical expenses that require one parent to pay the other back. Most places will have calculators that they use to determine the amount of support that needs to be paid, so reaching out to an experienced family law attorney can ensure that you receive the best advice for your situation.

Final Thoughts

Splitting up can be difficult for most people, but for unmarried couples with children, it can cause a lot of extra stress. Ensuring that you have a plan and trying to work together can be the best option moving forward.

To learn more about the unmarried couple with child splitting up scenarios, divorce, and divorce mediation, contact ADR Times!

Emily Holland
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