- February 22, 2021
- Posted by: Lee A. Schwartz, Esquire
- Category: Divorce
Child Custody in PA When Parents Are Not Married
Are you an unmarried mother or father in Pennsylvania having a child custody dispute with the other parent? Does the law dictate who has child custody when the parents aren’t married in PA?
This article will set forth the PA custody laws for unmarried parents and comes from the office of PA child custody lawyers with over forty years of experience in child custody law. Give us a call if you are having custody problems – we can help.
Custody Laws in PA for Unmarried Parents
When parents are married and have a child, the law assumes that they are the parents of their child. This is not the case for unmarried parents, who often must take additional steps to form a legal relationship with their child.
Mother’s Rights in PA to Custody of Her Child and Visitation
There is no gender presumption in Pennsylvania as to whether a mother or father should be the primary custodian.. As such, both Mothers and Fathers have equal custodial rights.
While an unmarried mother has no obligation to tell the father she is pregnant, she can put her name on the child’s birth certificate, and she is free to move out of the area or out of state with the child, not telling the father of the child of the upcoming birth can be looked at negatively by a judge, especially if the birthing mother knows a certain man is the father.. A parent’s right to child support does not begin until the custodial parent files for child support with the court..
If an unmarried mother seeks child support and the putative father is not cooperative, she must petition the court to begin the child support procedure.. If a parent desires a paternity test to prove paternity and it shows a match between the support obligor and child, the court will issue an order establishing paternity and make findings regarding child support. The downside of this is that once paternity is established, the obligor can seek custody and visitation.
Father’s Rights in PA to Custody of His Child and Visitation
A father has the right to be named on the birth certificate, to seek sole or joint physical and legal custody of his child, and to seek visitation. However, before a father asserts any of these parental rights, the paternity of the child must be established unless both parents agree that paternity is not in question. This is usually done by testing the DNA of the child, the putative father, and the mother.
Once paternity is established, if the parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement they may seek an order from a family court judge who will consider the same 16 statutory child custody factors they consider in any custody case. Unmarried parents may also seek to resolve their differences through mediation or the collaborative process, which are much less expensive, time-consuming, and contentious than litigation in family court.
Unmarried parents who are recognized by the law, namely, the biological mother and father or a biological parent and a second-parent adoptor, are responsible for supporting the child. This means that child support will likely be paid by one parent to the other. Usually the custodial parent or the parent with primary physical custody is the party receiving support.
Unmarried parents also have the same responsibilities as married parents when it comes to co-parenting. One parent is not permitted to manipulate the child to alienate the child from the other parent.
The Rights of Same-Sex Parents to Custody and Visitation in PA
Unmarried same-sex couples who have raised a child as their own and who are now disagreeing about the custody arrangement should consult a PA child custody lawyer for help. Their respective parental rights will be determined by both biology and the family’s legal relationships with one another.
When one member of the couple is the biological parent and the other is not, that does not necessarily mean that the biological parent gets superior custody rights and the other parent has no rights.
If the non-biological parent formally adopted the child, even through a second-parent adoption where neither biological parents give up parental rights, that gives the non-biological parent all of the parental rights and responsibilities any parent would have. These include physical and legal custody, child support, and co-parenting responsibilities. Their child would have all inheritance rights and the right to a relationship with them as their legal parent.
If under these circumstances unmarried same-sex parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, they also have the right to seek a child custody order through family court in PA. Again, they can opt to take advantage of mediation or the collaborative process to speed things up rather than litigate.
Lawyer to Help Unmarried Parents With Child Custody in PA
If you are having issues with your ex over child custody or visitation, contact us. We can explain your options and help you and your child get the best possible child custody arrangement.