Increasingly, young couples are deciding not to get married. This is not to say that people are turning away from committed relationships. Rather, it means that many couples live together, raise children together and stay together for years without ever formalizing their union through a marriage.
While this can certainly work for many people, know that such an arrangement can present some legal complications down the line. However, there are ways to protect yourself if you find yourself in one of these situations.
Your parental rights
As an unmarried parent, you will need to take additional steps to establish your legal role in your child’s life and establish your rights.
As a father, you can do this by signing an official Declaration of Paternity. This can be done in the hospital after the child is born or may be signed after the parents leave the hospital. While this may seem unnecessary, it can be an essential document in protecting your parental rights. Even if you and the mother of your child have no doubts about whether you are the father, state law dictates that the child has no legal father if parents are unmarried and nothing is done to establish paternity.
If there are doubts about parentage, you can secure a genetic test to confirm biological paternity. If you are not a biological parent, you will need to adopt the child.
If you do not take these steps to legally become a child’s parent, a breakup could leave you without any parental rights. This means that the child’s parent is within his or her rights to move away with your child, prevent you from having any contact with the child and make all child-related decisions without you.
If you are a child’s mother, you also have reason to establish parentage. If you and your partner break up, parentage must be established to receive child support from the father.
Protecting yourself as a parent
As you can see, taking the steps to legally establish parentage can be crucial if you are an unmarried parent.
In our next post, we will continue this discussion on ways unmarried couples can protect themselves. In that post, we will focus on financial and economic protections.