Families today look a lot different than they did in past eras. For example, many families root and grow without parents ever getting married.
Unfortunately, a breakup or irreconcilable differences can plague unwed couples just as they do those who are married. It is vital to learn about parenting time if your relationship fails, especially if you and the other parent never married.
Do unmarried parents have rights?
Ideally, all parents have the fundamental right to direct the care and upbringing of their children, regardless of marital status. In family law, they also have the right to see and participate in their children’s lives.
However, having rights and ensuring they remain protected can be challenging without a formal marriage.
What about unwed fathers?
This is where it can get tricky. As mentioned above, all parents have rights, but unmarried dads must establish their paternity to enjoy them. In New York, both parents can sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form to establish paternity. If this is not possible, unwed fathers can initiate a paternity case with the court, which often means taking a DNA test.
What about unwed mothers?
Of course, biological motherhood is rarely questioned, but unmarried moms can still lose their parenting time rights. For example, violent conduct or substance addiction could jeopardize a mom’s custody and visitation rights.
Fortunately, family courts often restore these rights when the parent (mother or father) shows they are again fit to spend time with their children.
Preserving your parenting time rights is extremely important for you and your kids. If you are concerned about losing access to your children, a legal opinion may open a path to potential solutions.