Can Unwed Parents Get Child Custody?

It can be more difficult for an unwed parent to get custody of a child. Specifically, it is generally more difficult for the father to get child custody if he is not married to the mother. Obviously, the mother’s claim to the child is pretty apparent right from birth. If the mother chooses not to list the father on the birth certificate, it can be an uphill battle for the unwed father to get custody of his child. In this case, the unwed father has to establish paternity to get child custody.

Paternity can be established in several ways. First, in most states, if a couple is married at the time the woman becomes pregnant the man is presumed to be the father of the child, and has a legal claim to the child. Even if another man actually fathered the child, because the biological father and the mother were not married, that biological father has to be able to establish paternity in order to make a child custody claim.

In many cases, an unwed mother might wish not to list the father on a birth certificate. It may be that the father is violent, or that there is some other concern that the father would be a danger to the child. Still, in some cases, an unwed mother may wish to list the father, whether it is because the father wants to be involved in the child’s life or whether the mother wants to build a case for child support.

In some instances, an unwed father may actually be able to establish paternity. Even if he does, there is still a battle for child custody. Once paternity has been established, the burden of proof is often on the father to prove that he can provide a more suitable environment for the child than the mother can. Because the courts often prefer to leave a child with whatever parent has had custody up to this point, the struggle of the unwed father to get child custody can be very challenging, but it is not impossible.


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