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Child Custody and Child Support for Unmarried Parents

Child Custody and Child Support for Unmarried Parents When a married parent decides to file for divorce, part of the divorce process will include custody, visitation and child support orders if the parties share any minor children.  When parents are going through a divorce, figuring out a new way to share and support their children is part of the natural progression of the divorce process.  However, parents who are not married do not have the option of filing for divorce in order to obtain custody and support orders.  In today’s society many different types of relationships exist wherein the parents of minor children are unmarried. The San Diego Superior Court system has an option for all parents seeking judicial relief.

    When a non-marital relationship ends, if the parties have minor children, they will face the same issues as parents who file for divorce.  Unmarried parents have the same legal rights and obligations regarding custody and visitation and child support as married parents do.  The existence of a valid marriage between the parents of a child will have no substantial bearing on the Court’s custody and visitation orders.  Further, regardless of marital status, both parents of a child have an equal obligation to support the child financially.

    The major difference for non-married parties who initiate an action for custody and visitation/child support is the type of action that must be commenced.  As non-married parents will not file for divorce, they must file a paternity action to have their matter heard by the court.  If the identity of the child’s father is unknown or disputed, the court will make appropriate orders regarding the determination of the child’s biological father.  In order to avoid DNA testing in the event a paternity action is commenced, the biological father has the option of executing a voluntary declaration of paternity upon the child’s birth.  A voluntary declaration of paternity properly executed in the presence of hospital staff is considered valid by courts and creates a presumption that the signor is the child’s father.

    In the unfortunate event that domestic violence is an issue between unwed parents; the victim may open a domestic violence case with the San Diego Superior Court.  The judge will then have the ability to make custody and visitation orders pursuant to that action.  For example, when a domestic violence temporary restraining order is first sought the requesting party has the option to request the court also issue an order of protection for his or her minor children.  Regardless of the type of action commenced (divorce, paternity, or domestic violence) domestic violence is a major consideration for the court when making any custody and visitation orders.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.