Custody Without Marriage / by Cassandra Hearn

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In the past, the typical family structure involved a man and woman getting married and having children; however, this is no longer the standard family structure. Today, the idea of family includes all different types of arrangements, and having children without marriage is common. When a couple is married, there is a legal presumption that the husband is the father of the child. However, when the couple is not married, there are some other issues that first need to be handled.

When a child is born to an unmarried couple, paternity needs to be established. A father may sign a voluntary declaration of paternity, which will make the father the child’s legal father. California family code 7573 provides that a validly executed VPD may serve as the basis for a suit for custody, visitation, or child support. Alternatively, the father or the mother may bring a case to establish paternity in court. A court may order genetic testing before determining that a father is the legal father of the child, especially where a mother contests the fact that the man bringing the petition is the child’s biological father.

After paternity is established, a father who is not married to the mother of the child has the same rights as if the child had been born while the parents were married. California law does not rely on marital status to determine what is in a child’s best interests.  In addition, California law has no preference for providing custody based on the gender of either parent.

Regardless of whether there was a marriage, both parents are obligated to provide financial support for the child. The calculation of support, often called the Guideline Calculation, will use the same factors and the same calculation as if the parents had been married.

Custody can be difficult regardless of whether the parents were ever married. Contact us today at 619-800-0384 to talk about your child and your goals for their future.