Many millennial and young parents are choosing not to marry the other parent of their child. There are some who do not find value in the concept of marriage; others might prefer cohabitation to marriage. Some parents grew up with parents who divorced and they don’t want to put their children in that position.

Whatever the reason may be, it is not unusual for parents to be unmarried and rearing a child together. While this arrangement can certainly be the foundation of a happy family, it is important to know that it can introduce some legal complications, including complications regarding parenting rights.

Legal issues that affect unmarried parents

Under California parentage laws, there is typically no question about the parentage of a child born to married parents. The legal rights and responsibilities come automatically.

When parents are unmarried, they need to take extra steps to legally identify parentage because there is no legal father when a baby is born or conceived to unmarried parents.

Without a legal father, the courts cannot order custody, visitation or child support. Should the parents break up, the presumed father will have no rights to see his child. The mother will not have legal rights to collect child support from him, either.

Avoiding and resolving these issues

In most cases, addressing these issues is as simple as completing Declaration of Paternity form. Normally, it is suggested to file a paternity action so a court order certifies who is the father. For same-sex parents, the process is a little trickier and involves proving to the courts that the non-biological mother or father intends to be a parent to the child.

If parentage is contested, then a party can request a court order to legally identify someone as a parent. This may or may not involve genetic testing.

Taking parentage issues seriously

Even if you are in a long-term, committed relationship and have no intention to ever break up with the other parent of your child, you should still take steps to legally establish parentage to avoid messy legal battles. Not only is this important for your rights as parents, it can also be important for your child’s well-being and sense of security.