Cohabitation and Kids -- How The Law Affects Your Right To Parent   

         When a married couple has a child, both spouses have equal responsibilities and rights. Usually in a marriage, fatherhood is automatically assumed unless the paternity is contested. And, if the marriage ends in a divorce, both spouses still have the legal rights to continue the parental relationship with the child.

         However, when a couple is living together and they have a child out of the relationship, the rights of the parents are not assumed. First, the paternity of the child is not assumed in the same manner. If the couple breaks up, then the father has to first establish his paternity and right as a parent before he can automatically assume this. Basically this means that as long as the couple lives together, the father can has all the privileges, but once the relationship is broken, the legal right of the father in not guaranteed.

         Taking the legal aspect into consideration, it is the mother who has the sole custody of the child until the father proves his paternity legally. Even if the father's name is mentioned on the birth certificate, it does not automatically mean that the paternity is guaranteed under the state law. Therefore, the father has to prove his paternity.

         In order for an unmarried father to prove his paternity, he has to do it via a Declaration of Paternity or via a paternity test. This will allow the father to get custody of the child and/or have the right to visit the child. This also puts the burden of providing financial support to the child until he or she turns 18.

         In case you are not the biological parent of the child but have a strong emotional bond, the court may give you the right to visit the child so that your relationship can continue with the child. However, this is not guaranteed as laws vary from state to state. Nonetheless, courts always take into consideration what is best for the child. In addition, a non-biological parent does not have to provide financial support unless the child has been adopted by the parent.

         Non legal parents have limited decision making powers for the child. All medical decisions pertaining to the child can only be taken by the legal parent or guardian. This means when couples are cohabiting, just the mother can make the decisions and not the father or step-father. The same also goes for the step-mother.




Cohabitation and Kids -- How The Law Affects Your Right To Parent

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