Unmarried Parents and Child Custody
According to the Pew Research Center, only about 46 percent of American children under the age of 18 are part of a “traditional” family. The “traditional family” presented in this statistic is a family headed by two, heterosexual parents who are in their first and only marriage. Unmarried parents understand that there are innumerable ways to build a healthy and happy environment for our children. While complex family structures often lead to great situations for New Jersey parents and children, they can also lead to legal disputes when it comes to child custody.
At Jacobs Berger, our child custody attorneys believe that protecting the parental rights of mothers and fathers is an essential part of building a solid foundation for children. We view our role in the family law legal process as one where we help our clients go from distressed to de-stressed across New Jersey towns and the greater Morris County region. Lean on our experience and knowledge of NJ family law to ensure you are getting the custody and parenting time to which you are entitled.
Call our office today for a confidential and comprehensive Strategic Planning Session with one of our qualified family law attorneys regarding your child custody concerns as an unmarried parent.
The Parental Rights of Unmarried Mothers and Fathers
In simple terms, fathers and mothers in New Jersey have equal legal standing as parents. While courts previously may have sided with mothers as the “fitter” parents, that notion has been replaced with the equal treatment of both genders under the law. That being said, for unmarried parents, men may have to go through a legal process in order to show that they are the father of their child.
There are three primary ways by which a father can be granted legal paternity in New Jersey:
- If the parents are married 300 or more days before the birth of a child, it is legally presumed that the husband is the father
- Both parents sign a Certificate of Parentage and file it with the state registrar. This document is essentially a contract stating that both parties believe that the man is the biological father
- Court ordered paternity test. For co-parents who are not in agreement and cannot come to terms through a certificate of parentage, a DNA test to determine the paternity of the child may be necessary
Child Custody Lawyers Help Unmarried Parents to Secure Custody and Parenting Time
Child custody proceedings for unmarried parents are very similar to those which happen during divorce proceedings. In both situations, the best interests of the child will be identified, both parties will present their cases, and ultimately, a resolution will be met. For unmarried parents, our Randolph child custody lawyers will work with both co-parents to draft a cohabitation agreement or a child custody agreement. Whether settled through litigation or out of court, the following factors may be considered when determining child custody:
- Where the child spends most of his or her time currently
- The relationship between the child and each parent
- The relationship between co-parents
- Any outstanding issues with either parent involving substance abuse, domestic abuse, previous criminal activity, and more
- Convenience to both the child and the parents
- Financial standing of each parent
- Ability of each parent to care for any special needs the child may have
Child Custody for Unmarried Parents Attorneys Discuss Child Custody Arrangements
Our child custody for unmarried parents attorneys understand that no two families are alike. Thankfully, New Jersey child custody laws offer several alternatives which may be suitable for unmarried parents. The different types of child custody arrangements and other considerations include:
Sole Custody – Actually, sole custody is actually somewhat of a misnomer in many child custody agreements, as the non-custodial parent may still spend significant time with the child. In this arrangement, the child lives with the custodial parent and spends fewer than two overnights with the non-custodial parent.
Shared Custody – In arrangements where the child spends two or more overnights with the non-custodial parents, but time is not split 50/50, that is considered shared custody. This is an attractive alternative for co-parents who live in close proximity and have an amicable relationship.
Joint Custody – When a child’s time is split evenly between both parents, and both parents are awarded legal custody of the child, that is considered joint child custody.
Co-parents in one household – for unmarried parents who live together, cohabitation agreements may give both parties joint custody under the assumption that the parents will parent together in a similar fashion to a married couple.
Contact our Unmarried Parent Child Custody Attorneys Today
At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys believe that finding an amicable and mutually beneficial child custody arrangement is great not only for parents but for children as well. We view every case as an opportunity to build a new family foundation for our clients and their families in local New Jersey towns including Morristown, Madison, East Hanover, Randolph, Dover, Denville, Tewksbury, and all of Morris County. Our firm takes pride in making ourselves available to our clients, responding as quickly as possible to all inquiries.
For a confidential and comprehensive Strategic Planning Session regarding your legal standing as an unmarried parent or any other child custody concern, please contact us online or over the phone through our Morristown office by dialing (973) 710-4366 today.