How Is Child Custody Different for Unmarried Parents?
Whether you are married or unmarried, ending your relationship is difficult. If you are unmarried and have children with your soon-to-be-ex, however, this can make the separation even more challenging. Read on to learn how child custody, visitation, and child support work for unmarried parents and what you can do to get the legal support you need when moving on from a relationship with your child’s other parent. Here’s what you should know.
First, Legal Paternity Must Be Established
In divorce cases, establishing the paternity of any children the parents share is often unnecessary. Like many other states, New York law assumes that any children of the marriage are biologically related to the father. In cases of divorce within the LGBTQ+ community, paternity testing may be needed when the child has two male parents.
When unmarried parents separate, legal paternity must always be established and it’s generally the first step in a child custody case between two parents who aren’t legally married. New York law does not assume that any children of the relationship are biologically related to the father and formal documentation of paternity is required for custody, visitation, and child support to be awarded.
Custody and Visitation Is Determined
Once the court has established the biological paternity of the child, they can determine a child custody and visitation schedule. This is similar to how custody is determined for divorcing parents. Generally, the parent that is the child’s primary caregiver or has spent the most time with the child will be awarded primary physical custody and the other parent will be awarded visitation. In many cases, both parents are awarded legal custody so they may each have a say in the child’s medical care, education, and other important matters that impact the health and wellness of the child.
Ideally, the child will spend a roughly equal amount of time with both of their parents. However, multiple factors are considered when determining which parent should be awarded physical custody and how much time they should spend at each parent’s home. Courts will pay particular attention to the relationship of unmarried parents to their children and the home environment of each parent to determine what type of arrangement will be in the child’s best interests.
Child Support Is Ordered
Once custody has been determined and a visitation schedule set, child support can be ordered. It cannot be ordered prior to this for either married or unmarried parents because how much time each parent spends with the child directly impacts which parent is the payor and the recipient, as well as how much child support will be awarded.
Generally, the primary custodian of the child is the recipient of child support and the non-custodial parent pays them a certain amount determined by several factors, most notably how much time the child spends with the custodial parent and how much money the non-custodial parent earns.
Whether married or unmarried, the goal of child support is to ensure that both parents are equally responsible for the financial burden of caring for a child. However, the payor cannot be ordered to pay more child support than they can afford. An established mathematical formula is used to calculate how much support the child needs as well as the ability of the non-custodial parent to pay it. A court will not order the non-custodial parent to pay so much in child support that they aren’t able to afford basic necessities like housing and food.
How a Knowledgeable Long Island Family Lawyer Can Help You
If you’re unmarried and ending the relationship you have with your child’s other parent, you need the assistance of an experienced family lawyer to protect the best interests of you and your child. Legal representation isn’t just for married parents getting a divorce — it’s crucial that you have someone on your side advocating for your interests too. At Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C., we have the skills and expertise needed to provide you with zealous representation both in and out of the courtroom.
Contact us today to learn more about the legal options you have available to you on Long Island, or to book your initial consultation by calling 631-923-1910. We are available now to provide your family with compassionate legal advocacy during this challenging time.
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