sad child looking at parents splitting

Who Has Child Custody when Parents are Unmarried?

Putting an end to a relationship is always challenging, especially when children are involved. Unfortunately, there’s a lot that goes into determining who gets to keep the children in a break-up. If you’re currently fighting a child custody battle, it’s important to remember that custody decisions are based on:
  • Each parent’s rights
  • Their relationship with the child
  • Whether or not the couple is married

We want to cover how parental rights are established, how custody is determined, and what can be done to gain custody of your child.

How Parental Rights are Established

When it comes to married couples, determining parental rights is usually very straightforward. However, when the children’s parents are unmarried, things become much more complicated.

In order to obtain custodial rights in an unmarried situation, you must first display that you have parental rights to the child. In Indiana, like in most states, unmarried fathers must establish paternity before moving forward with child custody battles.

Without doing so, unmarried fathers are unable to receive parental rights, even if they are the child’s biological father and have acted as a father in the child’s life. The unfortunate truth is that a biological mother will always be given parental rights. Similar to how, when a married woman gives birth, the husband will automatically be given parental rights.

Now, you might be thinking, “What can I do to gain custody of my child if I’m not married to their legal mother?”

To gain parental rights as an unmarried father, you and the child’s mother must first sign an acknowledgment of paternity. This is a simple requirement as long as you and the mother of your child are on the same page.

If your child’s mother refuses to cooperate with you, you can file a petition to have the court help establish parental rights, which is usually done through bloodwork and genetic testing.

How Is Child Custody Determined?

While there is no “one size fits all” solution for child custody battles, there are many similarities between cases. Unmarried parents can choose a number of routes to resolve their custody issues, including:

  • Mediation outside of court
  • Presenting their case in court to a judge

The judge will examine many things before making a decision, including:

  • The relationship each parent has with the child
  • The ability each parent has to care for the child
  • Whether or not one parent was the primary caregiver
  • The child’s preferences
  • Any criminal history (especially domestic abuse)

What are the Options for Custody?

Based on the story that these factors tell, the judge will then make a decision. They will either grant joint or sole custody.

Joint Custody - The parents share time nearly equally.

Sole Custody - One parent has primary custody, and the other parent will be given specific visitation times with the child. However, in situations where past abuse and criminal history are present, the judge could prevent the parent from seeing the child.

HRM Is Here to Help

We understand that fighting for child custody following a break-up can be a challenge that comes with many questions. The team at Hollingsworth Roberts Means is ready to help answer your questions and move forward with your life.

If you have any questions or are ready to get started discussing your situation over a consultation over the phone, call our team today (888) 211-3888.

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