In this day and age, marriage is not seen a necessary life event. There are many families that live harmonious amongst each other and marriage has not needed to be a factor in their lives. Unfortunately, that is not always the case and couples who have started families eventually decide to go their separate ways. Custody battles can get a bit tricky in this case. Who have what rights? Here we will go over a few basic facts you should know about custody battles if you are not married.
If you are legally a parent of the child in question, meaning you are a biological parent or have gone through the necessary procedures to legally adopt the child, then the custody process is the same as if there was a divorce taking place. This means the court will decide what is in the child’s best interest and place him/her accordingly. Same goes for visitation and child support. Florida requires a parenting plan be submitted in all child custody cases (Diaz – FL Court Forms). Everything is done practically identically to the same process of a divorced, married couple.
If you are NOT legally a parent, the process changes quite drastically. If a person does not go through the proper outlets to obtain legal rights to a child, even if he/she raised the child along with a legal parent, it does not hold in a court of law. Most states give little to no rights to a non-legal parent, some not even allowing visitation or requiring financial help.
In some cases, such as where the biological parents of a child pass away, a non-legal parent or guardian may be appointed to parent the child. The court process varies from state to state, but ultimately the judge determines if a person is fit to continue to raise the child in question.
It is a good idea for unmarried couples with children to write out their own parenting agreements. It should be gone over with a mediator or family law attorney, if possible for the family, that way things can be worked out fairly through a legal process.
Lastly, always remember the most important thing in all of this is the children! It is imperative to keep the child’s best interest in mind, making sure any agreements don’t indirectly hurt the child in some way. Listen to what they have to say (if applicable) and listen to the other parent in their lives. Working together through situations like these makes it a whole lot easier and stress-free in the long run.