Unmarried parents face many of the same challenges as divorcing parents regarding child custody and support.
Creating a custody agreement can help you and your ex-partner avoid arguments and stress that can impact your children. You can also develop plans for handling holidays, summer vacations and changing schedules.
Establishing paternity and custody
Having legal custody can keep you connected and involved in major choices about your children’s education and upbringing. You can also seek physical custody if you want the children to live with you primarily. For many families, it benefits the children to maintain contact with both parents. Visitation rights allow noncustodial parents to spend quality time with their children. You can also consider sharing joint custody with your ex.
In general, unmarried mothers have full custody of their children after giving birth. Unmarried fathers must take steps to establish paternity before they can seek custody or visitation rights. Both parents can voluntarily sign documentation declaring the father’s paternity. In some cases, paternity testing can be helpful.
Visitation and child support
Creating a visitation schedule and plans for handling various complications and disputes can enable both you and your ex-partner to spend more quality time with your children with fewer conflicts. If possible, both parents should work together to create a custody agreement that accounts for everyone’s interests and prioritizes the children’s needs. Furthermore, if you are the primary custodial parent, you can receive child support payments to help with the expenses of caring for the children. When developing your custody agreement, make sure you discuss how your family can handle weekends, trips, family events and special occasions.
A child custody agreement can reduce conflict and help you and your former partner share parenting responsibilities fairly.