Common Custody Issues Unmarried Parents Face
Adult relationships can be complicated matters, and ideas about what works often vary from one couple to the next. Some are set on marriage, whether for religious or legal reasons, while others feel that committing doesn’t (and shouldn’t) require legal interference or that it won’t necessarily prevent a split down the line.
With all of that being said, the question of marriage can become much more pressing should children enter the equation. During a divorce, both parents have an equal shot at custody, but unmarried parents may face additional hurdles when they decide to separate.
Some of these custodial issues are as follows:
Mothers Automatically Get Custody
In the state of Michigan, only the mother is considered to be a presumptive parent if she’s not married at the time the child is conceived or born. Even if the father’s name is on the birth certificate or if he has an Affidavit of Parentage (which deems him a parent of the child), primary custody rights are retained by the mother.
What that means is that the father has no right to custody or visitation unless expressly allowed by the mother, and to gain custodial rights, the father must file a paternity action with the courts and obtain a custody order. That can certainly be a hard pill to swallow for many fathers, especially those who have been heavily involved in their children’s lives up until the point that they separated from their mothers.
Ideally, both parents will sign an Affidavit of Parentage that helps pave the way to shared custody, and the mother will facilitate visitation or parenting time, but fathers can also file for a paternity test to get the ball rolling on custody hearings on their own if the mother isn’t accommodating.
Equal Support is Still Required
Under Michigan state law, both biological parents share equal responsibility for the support of their children. That includes providing income, health insurance, education, and child care, the amounts of which are calculated using the Michigan Child Support Formula.
However, child support requires that paternity be established, and that means an Affidavit of Paternity signed by both parents or a positive paternity test must exist. Therefore, if a mother wants child support, she must establish paternity, and that opens the door for the father to gain shared custody. In addition, fathers who share custody or obtain custody are eligible to receive child support from the biological mother.
What if the Mother Moves to Another State?
Because unmarried mothers retain sole custody in the event of a breakup, they are legally allowed to take their children and move to another state, which can be devastating for fathers left behind. Under such circumstances, their best option will be to consult with an attorney. Michigan law dictates that an unmarried father must file for custody in the “home state” of their children, which can complicate custody hearings.
While unmarried couples face additional challenges when it comes to custody determinations, there is a legal process in place to ensure that custody and child support agreements can be reached. With that said, if you are an unmarried parent trying to determine child custody and support, contact Gucciardo Family Law today to schedule a free consultation and discuss the best course of action.
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