If you were never married to your child's other parent, child custody can't be decided during divorce proceedings. However, the court will still step in to determine custody if you live in separate households and don't agree how to split your parenting time.
Child Custody Issues for Unwed Parents
Some child custody issues are the same for both married and unmarried parents, while some issues are different. For example:
- Paternity must be established. One of the most significant differences for unwed parents is that Michigan courts presume that the mother should have primary custody of the child until paternity is established. Therefore, parents must execute an Affidavit of Parentage or have the court decide paternity as soon as possible. Until paternity is officially established, the child will remain in the mother's sole custody unless the parents agree otherwise. Of course, in some cases, paternity is established before a child custody determination becomes necessary, and the father should have the same rights as the mother.
- Child custody is decided based on the best interests of the child. After paternity is established, the court will use the same child custody standard as it does for married parents during a divorce, and child custody will be decided based on the best interests of the child.
Once paternity is established, child support may need to be paid. Regardless of marital status, both parents have a legal obligation to provide financial support for their children. Child support is based on both parents' financial income and the amount of time the child spends in each home. Generally, child support agreements remain in place until a child turns 18 or until a child turns 19 1/2 if that child is a full-time student.
How a Family Law Attorney Can Help Your Family
You don't need to be married to have a family. Our family law attorneys are here to help you navigate child custody agreements and protect your relationship with your children. Whether you are a mother or a father, we encourage you to contact our Bloomfield Hills child custody lawyers today to learn about your rights.