Custody agreements are a common consequence of divorce.
However, what happens when the parents never married? Does the father have the right to seek custody?
Rights of an unmarried mother or father
A mother has the same parental rights regardless of her marital status. An unmarried mother retains legal custody of the child at birth and has her name on the birth certificate. A DNA test to prove the father’s rights is only necessary if he or the child’s mother denies parentage. Once he establishes paternity, he has the right to pursue custody.
This process of proving paternity can occur beyond the child’s birth. Should an unmarried couple split when their child is older, the father may deny that he is the father despite an established relationship with the child.
Birth certificate rights for unmarried couples
In Pennsylvania, both parents’ first and last names go on a child’s birth certificate at birth. The state automatically recognizes both mother and father as the biological and legal parents of children birthed during a marriage.
When a child is born to unmarried parents, the court only presumes paternity for the mother. Even couples living together and in a committed partnership must voluntarily acknowledge their relationship before the father’s name goes on the birth certificate. If either denies the father’s paternity, they must prove it to a judge.
Once unmarried couples establish parentage, either parent can take legal action against the other for challenging their attempts to have a relationship with the child. Ideally, the mother and father work amicably to co-parent.