Parents that decide to separate, whether they are married or unmarried, have a hard decision to make when it comes to their lives and the lives of their children. Deciding who ultimately gets custody and who is responsible for the children financially is dependent on how well the parents get along and whether or not they can reach a resolution. If the parents disagree about custody, it will be up to a judge to make the decision for them. In Pennsylvania, unmarried parents have the same rights over their children as married parents in a custody case, with only a few slight differences.
Unmarried Versus Married Parental Rights
When a couple decides to get married and have children in Pennsylvania, the names of both parents are put on the birth certificate. In these situations, no other action has to be made. Both the mother and father will be considered the biological parents of the child.
For unmarried parents, it can get a little bit more complicated. Only the mother will be presumed to be the biological parent, not the father, even if both individuals express that they are in a relationship at the time the birth occurs. Both parents have to voluntarily acknowledge that they were in a relationship or prove this before a judge in court.
Unmarries Rights With Child Custody
If you are an unmarried mother when you give birth to your child, your rights as a mother are no different than they would be if you were married. Nothing about your marital status will impact your physical and legal custody of your child. Because you are unmarried, though, you will have to take steps to establish the paternity of your child and obtain support from the father. If the father of the child does not voluntarily acknowledge paternity, then you, as the mother, have the right to petition the court to require genetic testing. If this testing indicates the paternity of the father, then the court will establish their parentage.
Establishing the paternity of your child will give the father the right to pursue his parental rights. After the court finalizes paternity, the father will be allowed to seek physical and legal custody of their child.
If you are a father, not being married will not diminish your rights to your child. You will have every right to be named on the birth certificate and to seek physical and legal custody. If there is a difficult relationship between the father and the mother, then the father may have to take legal action in order to gain their rights to custody.
Both Parents Are Responsible For Supporting Their Child
In Pennsylvania, both parents are responsible for supporting their children. If the paternity of the father has been established, the mother will have the right to petition the court for child support. Both parents have an obligation to financially support their children, and child support payment amounts are based on a complex formula used by the Pennsylvania court system. Failing to pay child support could result in an individual facing charges, contempt of court, jail time, and major fees. Individuals could see their wages garnished, and they may lose their ability to obtain their tax returns.