Parental Rights of Unmarried Parents in Pennsylvania26 Oct 2017, by Family Law in
Written by Timothy Czekaj
Several years ago, your rights as a mother or father might have been affected by your marital status. Whether or not you were married when you had a child certainly impacted how the courts and society viewed you. However, in more recent years, parents are often unmarried when they have children. The importance of marriage and nuclear families is not the same as it once was. In many ways, the law has kept up with this shift in family dynamics. Currently in Pennsylvania, unmarried parents have essentially the same right as married parents. However, the steps toward establishing and protecting these parental rights is different.
If you are an unmarried mother or father and need help with child custody and support matters or you wish to know more about the rights of unmarried parents, contact our New Bloomfield family lawyers of Czekaj Law, LLC at (717) 275-9770 .
How Your Rights as Unmarried Parents Differ From Married Parents
If you and your child’s other parent are married at the time of the birth, Pennsylvania law assumes you are the mother and father. You do not have to take any additional steps to prove your biological and legal relationship to your child. Your names simply go on the birth certificate.
However, if you are unmarried at the time of your child’s birth, there is no such presumption. While a birth mother is presumed to be a child’s mother (when there is no court order stating otherwise), there is no presumption of who the child’s father is. Even if you are in a committed relationship with the child’s mother, the law does not assume you are the biological father. You must either voluntarily acknowledge your relationship, or prove it in court. If you wish to try and prove your paternity in court, contact a family court lawyer from Czekaj Law, LLCtoday at (717) 275-9770 .
Rights of Unmarried Mothers
If you are unmarried when you give birth to your child, your rights as a mother are no different than if you were married. You have every right to place your name on your son or daughter’s birth certificate, care for your child, and make significant decisions for him or her. Nothing about your marital status impacts your physical and legal custody of your child.
Because you are unmarried, however, you may have to take steps to establish paternity for your child and obtain child support. If the father of your child will not voluntarily acknowledge paternity, then you have the right to petition the court to require a genetic test. If the DNA test comes back indicating paternity, then the court will legally establish parentage.
Establishing who your child’s biological father is gives you the right to pursue child support from him. However, it also gives him the ability to pursue other parental rights as well. Once the court finalizes paternity, your child’s father can seek physical and legal custody of your son or daughter. If this is the case then it is best to contact a Pennsylvania custody lawyer to help walk you through your options.
Rights of Unmarried Fathers
Your rights as a father are not diminished by not being married to your son or daughter’s mother. You still have every right to be named on the birth certificate and seek physical and legal custody.
If you and the mother are on good terms, then you can voluntarily acknowledge paternity at the time of your child’s birth. Then you and the mother can work out a parenting plan and child support arrangement yourselves. You may want to work with state authorities and an experienced Pennsylvania child support attorney to formalize your arrangement.
However, if your child’s mother makes it difficult for you to spend time with your child, then you may need to take legal action. You also have the right to petition the court to establish paternity. Doing so enables you to prove you are your child’s biological father, put your name on your child’s birth certificate, and eventually ask for custody. As an unmarried father, you must fully establish paternity before you can ask for any custody of your child.
Keep in mind, if you are successful in establishing paternity, then the mother of your child may be able to seek child support. While you will have the right to a relationship with a child, you will also have the obligation to financially support them. In certain circumstances, you may be able to ask the court to require the mother to pay child support.
Our New Bloomfield Family Attorney Can Help
Navigating your rights as an unmarried parent can be confusing, particularly since there is a great deal of misinformation available about these matters. If you are an expectant or new mother or father, do not hesitate to reach out for legal information and advice. Our New Bloomfield family attorney of Czekaj Law, LLC are here to guide you through the process of establishing and protecting your parental rights, including helping you formalize a parenting plan.