When a single parent fears losing custody of a child, it can be a frightening, frustrating and very emotional time. While many divorces end in long custody battles, those battles can be even more difficult when the parents were never married. The laws regarding custody can become a bit confusing for those who were not married and understanding these laws is critical in any custody case.
Parents who have a child but were never married may find it a bit more difficult to iron out custody than parents who are divorcing. All child custody laws typically revolve around the same principle. These laws are designed to protect the rights of the child and the children of parents who were never married have the same basic rights as children who were born to parents who are married. The basic rights of children include the right to receive proper care by parents and to have contact with both of those parents.
Child custody is used to describe the legal and binding relationship between a child and a parent. This relationship includes the rights of the child and the parent as well as the responsibilities of the parent. It is the parents’ responsibility to provide care for a child. Both of a child’s biological parents have these responsibilities just as both of them have custody rights. In some cases, the biological father may have to take steps to prove his paternity before his rights are considered. In the cases of divorce, this is not typically an issue. When the parents have never been married however and particularly when the child does not bear his father’s legal name, paternity may need to be established before custody can be settled.
Even in the case of unmarried parents, many courts favor joint custody of a child because this can allow the child to foster strong bonds with both parents. Different types of child custody may be awarded to single parents, depending on the specific circumstances. Sole legal custody is where one parent has control over the child’s basic needs and makes all of the decisions for that child. The child will live with the parent who has sole legal custody and the absent parent will often be awarded visitation rights. Joint physical custody is where both parents spend the same amount of time with the child. The child may live with one parent for one full week and then the other parent for the next full week.
Courts typically consider many factors when awarding custody to divorced or single parents. They may consider the child’s age, which parent the child prefers to live with, the relationship between the child and each of his or her parents, which parent can provide a more comfortable lifestyle and many other factors. Those who are battling for custody should always seek the guidance of a qualified and experienced attorney who is well-versed in child custody laws. These laws may vary by state so choosing an attorney who knows the laws in the state the parent lives in is recommended.
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