The legal challenges faced by unmarried parents are basically the same as those of married parents — custody, support, and visitation. The additional challenge faced by unmarried parents is paternity. When a couple is married, the law presumes the man is the father of the child; however, when parents are unmarried, the law does not automatically assume paternity. The mother and father can establish paternity by placing the father’s name on the birth certificate. If the mother or father challenges paternity, both parties should consult with a parenting rights lawyer immediately.
Who Has Primary Custody When Parents are Unmarried at the Time of Birth?
If parents are married at the time of the child’s birth, both parents will have equal parenting rights under North Carolina child custody laws but this is not the case when the parents are unmarried. When an unmarried couple has a child, the mother is presumed to have primary custody of the child. This means that the mother has the sole legal right to make decisions for the child. The mother can refuse visitation because she has sole legal custody of the child.
The father can file a paternity action to obtain custody rights if the mother disputes custody or refuses to allow the father to have visitation. Having custody is important because custody gives you the right to make decisions for your child concerning education, medical treatment, religious affiliation, and extra-curricular activities. A parenting rights lawyer can help a father file an action to establish paternity if the mother of the child is denying paternity.
Custody and Visitation for Unmarried Parents
NC Child Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents
Custody and visitation decisions are made in the same manner for unmarried parents as when married parents separate. The court bases decisions on what is in the child’s best interest. In most cases, it's in the child’s best interest for both parents to maintain a close relationship with the child.
In some cases, such as abuse or addiction cases, the court may determine it is in the best interest of the child to order supervised visitation or to terminate visitation.
Having an experienced parenting rights lawyer is essential to protect your right to play an active role in your child’s life. It is typically better for everyone when the parents can come to an agreement without court intervention. No one knows your child better than you do; therefore, no one is in a better position to decide how you and your child’s other parent can best work together to provide a loving, stable environment for your child.
A parenting rights lawyer who has strong negotiation skills can help parents work together to develop a parenting plan that is in their best interest and the best interest of their child. Once both parents agree on the terms of a parenting plan, the parties can present the plan to the court for approval. If parents cannot agree on custody and a parenting plan, the court will make the decision for them. As a parenting rights lawyer, it is also our job to help you avoid court intervention into your life and the life of your child whenever possible through mediation and negotiation.
Child Support Between Unmarried Couples
If the father refuses to pay child support, the mother must retain the services of a parenting rights lawyer to file a lawsuit to first establish paternity (if the father is contesting paternity) and then to settle the matter of child support.
Child support for unmarried parents is determined in the same manner as it is for married parents who separate. In North Carolina, child support is calculated based on the North Carolina Child Support Guidelines. This is the same for married parents and unmarried parents. A parenting rights lawyer cannot change the guidelines but the attorney can ensure that the court uses the correct information to calculate child support so that you are not paying nor receiving less than is required by law.
Contact an Experienced Jacksonville Parenting Rights Lawyer
“Attorneys Who Aggressively Protect Your Rights”
Child custody, visitation, and child support are emotional issues. Child custody is one of the most disputed and litigated in family court. Hiring an experienced parenting rights lawyer is essential to protect your parenting rights and the best interests of your child. In addition to strong litigation skills and experience in the courtroom, our parenting rights lawyer is a talented negotiator. Your rights and the rights of your child are our top priority.
The attorneys of Welch & Avery represent clients throughout Duplin County, Onslow County, and the surrounding communities. Call our office at (910) 405-8459 or contact us online today for a case evaluation.