Determining Custody of a Child with Never-Married Parents

August 12, 2016

never-married parents

Both parents have rights and obligations when it comes to caring for their child. The rights include being involved in the child’s upbringing and having a say in decisions regarding the child’s education and medical care. Many of the obligations mirror parental rights, including the duties to ensure the child has shelter, food, clothing, and health care. Getting married does not establish these rights and obligations, nor does never marrying remove them. They arise from conceiving the child and/or acting as a parent. 

That is a more of philosophical answer than may be needed to the question of whether a person who never marries the mother or father of their child can request custody or child visitation when a romantic relationship ends. The brief legal summary, however, helps makes clear that a never-married parent can absolutely assert his or her rights as a child’s mother or father. It also clarifies how decisions regarding child custody are based, in part, on determinations regrading which parent can best meet his or her obligations to the child. 

Family law judges use the child’s best interest as the standard for assigning custody. Questions that must be answered during a custody dispute include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • What is the exact relationship between the child and the person petitioning for custody? Note that an adult does not need to be a biological parent in order to receive custody, but a court can request a paternity test and consider the result as a factor that affects the strength of the bond between the adult and child.
  • Which parent has the more stable living situation? Is one parent employed and in his or her own home while the other parent struggles to find work and does not keep their own apartment? Is one parent already successfully raising other children?
  • Which parent has the strongest emotional bond with the child? Related to this, has the child only ever lived with one parent, and does the child express a strong preference for staying with his or her mother or father? A child considered mature enough to do so will be encouraged to tell court officials and agency representative what they consider their own best interest to be.
  • Which parent can best provide for the physical, developmental, and emotional needs of the child? Answers include financial and psychological considerations, as well an assessment of the physical health of each parent.
  • Would a custody decision cause the child to move and change schools, make new friends, and live away from siblings, cousins, grandparents, and other family members? Judges often seek to minimize lifestyle changes for the child. 

A never-married parent who wants legal custody of a son or daughter must go through the same legal processes as a parent who was once married to their child’s mother or father. Court filings, home visits, occupational and financial assessments, and a hearing before a judge are needed. Having advice and representation from an experienced Ohio child custody lawyer while navigating this system can help a parent avoid missing paperwork deadlines and prepare for meetings with judges and evaluators. 

Let the family law attorneys with Edward F. Whipps & Associates know if we can assist you with a child custody case. Call us at (614) 461-6006 or set up an appointment online.

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