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Child Custody
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Child Custody Agreements for Unmarried Parents

It is increasing common for couples to have children and remain unmarried. A custody agreement, however, will have to be negotiated if you and your partner end your relationship. If a custody battle breaks out between unmarried parents, the court will have to make custody decisions.

Regardless of whether the custody dispute is between a divorcing couple or an unmarried couple, the judge will base his custody decision on what is in the best interests of the child.

If the Unmarried Father Is Seeking Custody

In the United States, unmarried mothers are presumed to have natural custody of their children from birth. Even if the father's name is on the birth certificate, unmarried fathers are not automatically entitled to custody. To gain custody rights, custody laws for unmarried fathers require that the father demonstrate to the court he is actively involved in raising the child.  Learn more about fathers' child custody rights.

When making custody decisions, a judge will try to determine what is in the best interests of the child. In determining "best interests," the judge will look at many factors, including:

  • What is the child's relationship with each parent?
  • What child rearing skills does each parent have?
  • Which parent will provide the best home environment?
  • Which parent has the most suitable character and temperament to serve as custodian?
  • Does the child have stronger emotional ties to one parent?
  • Is one parent better suited to meet the child's special needs?
  • Which parent is the most likely to allow the child to continue his or her relationship with the other parent and extended family?
  • Which parent has the child been living with?
  • What is each parent's employment status?
  • What is the financial status of each parent?
  • Does either parent have an illness or habits that may harm the child?
  • What is each parent's apparent motive for seeking custody?
  • Is either parent unfit to have custody?

Custody Agreements for Unmarried Parents

Barring instances of neglect or physical or mental abuse, experts usually recommend that both parents play an active role in raising a child. Although you and your ex may have ended your romantic relationship, you still have a relationship when it comes to raising your child.

For your child's sake, strive to have an amicable relationship with your former partner. Among other things, this means you should make an effort to negotiate a child custody agreement that both you and your ex can live with. If you want to make a good-faith effort to reach an agreement--but do not want to deal directly with your ex-child custody lawyers can help you reach a settlement. If you're unable to come to an agreement, a judge will make the decisions for you.