If you’re an unmarried
father, you’re not alone. According to
Pew Research Center, One-in-four parents living with a child in the United States today are
unmarried. Driven by declines in marriage overall, as well as increases
in births outside of marriage, this marks a dramatic change from a half-century
ago, when fewer than one-in-ten parents living with their children were
Today, over 16 million U.S. parents without a spouse at home are living
with their child who is under the age of 18, “up from 4 million
in 1968 and just under 14 million in 1997,” states Pew Research
Center. One of the biggest driving factors of this trend is the decline
in the number of people overall who are married, which gives rise to questions
about an unmarried mother’s rights and whether the biological father has any.
Unmarried Mothers Have Sole Custody
Like all other states, when a child is born outside of marriage, the unmarried
mother has sole legal and physical custody of her child. When a parent has
legal custody, it means he or she has the right to make important decisions about their
child, such as education, religious upbringing, healthcare, mental health, etc.
Physical custody, on the other hand, refers to having actual physical care and supervision
of one’s child.
When an unmarried mother has sole legal and physical custody of her son
or daughter, it means she can decide on:
- Who sees her child
- Who cares for her child
- Applying for public benefits on the child’s behalf
Custody Can Change in the Future
It’s important to note that just because an unwed mother automatically
has sole legal and physical
custody of her child upon birth, that doesn’t mean it can’t change.
If the father were to seek custody or
visitation in the future, a court can change custody at a later date.
However, the family courts cannot issue orders for child support or child
custody until paternity is established, which is done through both parents
voluntarily signing an
Acknowledgement of Paternity form (usually at the hospital after the child’s birth) or by one
of the parents filing a paternity action and seeking a court-ordered DNA test.
If you’re an unmarried mother or father and need help with a family
law matter, don’t hesitate to contact Samuelson Hause & Samuelson, LLP
for experienced representation.