Society likes parents to be married. Marriage creates a more solid bond and stability, and for the most part, a better environment for children.
But today many parents aren’t married, and they like it that way. While such a set-up has some advantages, a breakup can result in even more problems for parents who choose to remain unmarried.
Especially for the father.
While married fathers’ rights have at least somewhat equaled those with the mothers the past few years, the rights of unmarried fathers lag. Unmarried fathers have challenged their rights as fathers under The Rights of Unmarried Fathers, citing the 14th Amendment to the Constitution in cases where birth mothers relinquished their babies for adoption.
In a win for the unmarried fathers, the Supreme Court affirmed an unmarried father’s rights when he has established a substantial relationship with his child, which is defined as, “the father’s commitment to the responsibilities of parenthood, as demonstrated by being involved or attempting to be involved in the child’s upbringing.”
While all of that is good news for unmarried fathers, from a practical aspect many courts are still reluctant to award custody to an unmarried father, in part because the defining of involvement in child’s upbringing can be so vague.
The FindLaw website’s article, “How Child Custody Decisions are Made.” “When a child’s parents are unmarried, the statutes of most states require that the mother be awarded sole physical custody unless the father takes action to be awarded custody. An unwed father often cannot win custody over a mother who is a good parent, but he can take steps to secure some form of custody and visitation rights.”
While other aspects of divorce regarding non-married couples are simpler, with children, custody almost always goes against the father. Keep that in mind if you find yourself in that situation. In most cases, the child will go to what is deemed, “the primary caregiver.”
If you have taken an active role in your child’s daily life, you can still gain custody of your child, but the burden of proof is higher than if you were married to your partner. It still is possible. I am living proof with my story, but it is undoubtedly an uphill battle.
What has been your experience as an unmarried father?
Image courtesy of Jo Christian Oterhals on Flickr.com.