Divorce is a complicated process. When children are part of the process, additional factors related to child custody come into play and must be resolved. Want to make the process even more complicated? What happens if the parents involved in a custody dispute aren’t married? Let’s review some custody issues for unmarried parents.

Who Has Custody of a Child When Parents Are Not Married?

Court proceedings related to child custody take a different direction if the parents of the child are unmarried. The specific laws related to child custody vary from state to state. Many states, including New Jersey, view the rights of unmarried parents in the same way they view the rights of married parents. This means the mother of the child is presumed to have sole custody. The father of the child will need to get a court order if he wants to see the child and legally pursue his rights. Father rights are limited and will not even be considered unless paternity of the child has been established. To obtain visitation rights, or pursue some amount of child custody, the father of the child must legally establish his paternity of the child.

Child Custody Visitation and Support Issues

When the parentage of the child becomes legally established, child custody issues are usually handled in the same way as if the parents had been legally married. Of course, if both parents can agree on a plan for visitation or shared custody, court proceedings can be limited. This helps avoid a drawn out and costly custody battle. Experienced family law attorneys can assist clients in resolving child custody visitation and support issues and work towards both parties coming to a mutually agreed upon resolution. 

Financial Responsibilities for Children

Financial responsibilities, namely child support, play a significant role in child custody cases, regardless of the marital status of the parents. While both parents are legally responsible to support their children, the parent with the superior financial status, which usually means the higher income, is looked upon to provide some financial support to the less prosperous parent. If the parents cannot agree on an amount, the court will make that determination when it hands down the final decree. If the parent ordered to pay child support fails to do so, the other parent can petition the court and the non-paying spouse can be prosecuted, and ultimately jailed, if the child support is not paid. 

Messy Custody Battle or Constructive Court Proceedings?

If you are dealing with child custody issues and don’t know where to turn, you should contact the family law attorney experts at the Law Offices of James C. DeZao. Our experienced lawyers can answer your questions and assist you through the entire divorce process. Our goal is to help you avoid a messy custody battle and reach the outcome you desire through constructive court proceedings. The well-being of your children is at stake, so don’t settle for less than the best. Call us today for a free consultation at (973) 358-6134