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Determining custody for unmarried parents

Many of those with whom we work here at Epperson Law PLLC come to us wondering how child custody issues apply to couples who never marry. The U.S. Census reports that 13.6 million unmarried couples were living together with children in 2011. If and when these couples separate in Charlotte, both sides are often unfamiliar with how the state handles the establishment of a child custody agreement. Fathers in particular may be concerned about their future involvement in their children, especially if the mothers remarry. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at how North Carolina handles custody issues for unmarried couples.

When an unwed couple chooses to separate in the state, paternity must first be established before the father’s parental rights are recognized. This can be done by establishing legitimacy through a legal declaration. The father submits a written petition to the court along with a copy of the child’s birth certificate, with both the mother and child being parties to the petition. Should the court approve the petition, the names of the father, mother, and the child shall be included in a court order establishing legitimacy.

In the event that the mother has remarried, the same process described above is still followed. In this case, however, the mother’s new spouse must also be included in the proceedings.

Having established paternity, the father is granted all of the same rights and responsibilities as those of a married father. This includes consideration when determining child custody and visitation. At the same time, it could also potentially obligate him to pay child support.

For more information on separation issues for unmarried couples, visit our Family Law page.  

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