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How do unmarried parents create child custody agreements?

On Behalf of | Dec 22, 2023 | Child Custody |

Around 38% of the children born in New York have unmarried parents, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.

New York parents can share equal rights and responsibilities regardless of marital status. For unmarried parents who live separately, establishing child custody helps ensure the well-being of their children.

Establishing legal parentage

In some cases, unmarried parents must establish legal parentage before seeking custody. Generally, mothers automatically have custody of their children after giving birth. However, legal parentage can be more complicated for fathers.

Establishing paternity is necessary before a father can take on custodial rights and responsibilities. Parents can establish paternity by signing a voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form at the hospital or filing a Family Court petition. This step gives both parents the right to seek custody or visitation.

Starting the custody process

New York recognizes two types of custody: physical and legal. Legal custody involves important decisions about the child’s upbringing. Physical custody determines where the child lives. Parents can retain legal custody even if they are not the primary physical custodian. This allows parents to maintain ties with their children.

Unmarried parents must file in Family Court to establish custody. This process begins with filling out forms, which include petitions for custody and summons. These documents ask for details about the child’s current living situation, the parent’s relationship with the child and the proposed custody arrangement.

Finalizing custody arrangements

The custody arrangement becomes legally binding once the parents agree or the court decides. Parents must adhere to the terms outlined in the custody order. If circumstances change, either parent can request a custody order modification. However,  they must prove that the change is in the child’s best interest.

By focusing on their children’s needs and well-being, unmarried parents can navigate this process to provide nurturing environments for their families.