What Rights Does an Unmarried Mother Have in New York?

If you’re an unmarried mother or 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 unmarried (7%).”

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
  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • 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.