A Complete Guide to Child Custody: Who Has Custody in Unmarried Couples

In many ways, life is a lot more complicated when you’re married. But when it comes to determining parental rights, it’s a lot easier. When you’re married, both the man and the women have automatic parental rights. Both are listed on the birth certificate, as the father is assumed to be the biological father. However, if you are not married, things get a little trickier. No one assumes anything, and men who want to assert their parental rights may have to first prove that they are the biological father.

It’s helpful to talk with a family law lawyer in Glendale if you want to establish your parental rights as a father right from the start. Women don’t have such a burden since they deliver the baby – there’s no question that they are the mother. However, women may want to talk to a child custody lawyer to protect themselves from fraudulent paternity claims or to prevent a custody arrangement that would not be in the child’s best interests.

Establishing Paternity

Before you can start answering questions about custody, you need to establish paternity. Ideally, this would have been established at birth. In Arizona, an unmarried couple can include both parents’ names on a child’s birth certificate if they sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity in the presence of witnesses and have the form notarized. Typically, a nurse or other representative at the hospital will assist with this process, and will then collect the form and prepare the birth certificate.

If there is some dispute about paternity, or if the mother does not want to include the father on the birth certificate, genetic testing will need to be ordered. The man may need to file a petition with the court to establish parentage, and then a DNA test will be granted. A woman may need to file this petition if the man is trying to deny parentage.

Determining Child Custody

Once paternity is established, you can then go to a child custody lawyer to work out how to divide custody. The courts are going to consider what is in the best interests of the child when determining custody, and the assumption is going to be that it’s in the best interest of every child to spend time with both parents.

If you don’t believe this to be true, you are going to need to make an argument proving why. You’ll need to address issues of the type of relationship the child has with each parent, the ability of each parent to care for the child, the health of each parent, the type of relationships the child has with others in each parent’s community, and so on.

If there is any history of drug or alcohol abuse, domestic violence, or other types of abuse, that will also be taken into consideration. If the child is old enough, the courts may also listen to the child’s wishes when determining custody.

Creating a Custody Arrangement

The custody arrangement for your children is too important to leave to a simple discussion between you and your co-parent. Emotions can run high, and people often act in their own interests, rather than in the interests of the child. That can leave you with less time with your child than you would like and less time than you deserve. It’s important that you talk with an experienced family law attorney to better understand your rights and your legal options, and then to craft a strategy to increase your chances of getting the best child custody arrangement you can.

My AZ Lawyers is ready to help you if you are fighting to get custody of your children or if you need to defend against a custody suit. Our experienced attorneys understand the unique issues that unmarried parents face in custody cases, and they are ready to put their experience and knowledge to work for you to fight for the outcome you want. We serve clients in the Mesa, Glendale, Tucson, and Phoenix areas. Contact us today to start talking through the details of your case with a child custody attorney. We’ll help you understand your legal options so that we can start forming a winning strategy.

My AZ Lawyers

Mesa Location:
1731 West Baseline Rd., Suite #100
Mesa, AZ 85202
Office: (480) 448-9800

Glendale Location:
20325 N 51st Avenue Suite #134, Building 5
Glendale, AZ 85308
Office: (602) 509-0955

Tucson Location:
2 East Congress St., Suite #900-6A
Tucson, AZ 85701
Office: (520) 441-1450

Avondale Location:
12725 W. Indian School Rd., Ste E, #101
Avondale, AZ 8539