While parents who are not married share legal challenges similar to those who are married, issues arise over paternity of the child. Specifically when parents do not know each other well or a father has chosen to be absent, emotionally charged issues create contentiousness between a couple.
At O'Brian & Associates, we help Seattle-area residents who want to play a vital, nurturing and supportive role in the lives of their children.
Unmarried mothers are presumed to have natural rights to custody of a child born out of wedlock. With those rights come care and control over the child, rights that the father does not have without establishing paternity or proving that the mother is unfit or abandoned the child.
Regardless of the mother's fitness, a father needs to take action if he wants custody of his child. Establishing paternity and a name on a birth certificate provides automatic recognition as the child's legal father and equal standing in the courts. Without that, suitability for custody is the issue. A good mother will not lose those rights. However, the father can still pursue partial custody and visitation.
Born out of a marriage or not, in Washington the best interests of the child is the primary consideration in any custody dispute. In fact, it is a higher priority than the rights of either parent. Factors such as moral character, financial stability and even the child's preference (if he or she is old enough) come into consideration.
If you need help establishing paternity or establishing a custody and visitation schedule for a child born outside of marriage, contact O'Brian & Associates. Our family law attorneys can be reached at (425) 276-7677. You can also contact our firm online.