I have a question about unwed mothers and rights to child custody. My baby is now two years old, and the name of her father is not on the birth certificate. We never married, and he wasn't around at the time of the birth. Does this mean that I have sole custody, or do I actually need to file for custody even though my daughter lives with me?
It depends on where you live. In some states, like Oklahoma, it is presumed that the mother has sole custody in cases where the parents were unmarried at the time of the child's birth and no father is on the birth certificate.
However, in other states, like Michigan, it is presumed that an unwed mother only has initial custody — as opposed to sole custody — even when the father is not on the birth certificate and has never signed a formal acknowledgment of parentage.
You should be aware, as well, that many states either make no presumption of custody based on whether the father is on the birth certificate, or presume joint custody even in cases where the parents were never married.
Therefore, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with the domestic relations statutes in the state where you live. It is possible that you will need to formally file for custody, even though your child is already living with you.
In particular, pay attention to:
- Statutes regarding children born out of wedlock or children whose parents were never married
- How to establish paternity in your state
- The establishment of child support
- The establishment of visitation and child custody
- Guidelines for establishing a parenting plan