The shape of traditional American households has shifted significantly within the past decade. Years ago, the majority of families consisted of married parents and children, all living together. Today, at least one in four parents in the United States living with their kids are not married, according to the Pew Research Center.
This means many parents choose not to get married, and may either raise their children while cohabitating or while living separately. Whatever the case may be, it is important to know your rights as an unmarried parent, should you choose to separate or someone challenges your right to spend time with your children.
While unmarried mothers are presumed to be the parent at the child’s birth, unmarried fathers may have a more difficult time. First, they must establish paternity to prove they are the rightful father of the child. The mother may sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity document at the hospital to ensure the father’s name is placed on the birth certificate.
If the mother does not sign the document and disputes the paternity of the father, the father can choose to have a DNA paternity test and present it to the court.
As a parent, you have the right to visit your child. The court will establish custody, either sole or joint physical custody, as well as a parenting plan. While mothers are often given primary custody of the child, the court makes all decisions based on the best interests of the child. This may mean the child is placed with their father. You should know what your rights are as a parent and as a caretaker.