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Challenges unmarried parents face in child custody situations

It is easy to associate child custody cases with parents who were married, but this isn't always true. Those who have never been married will go through the same process if their relationship dissolves.

For unmarried parents, there are different considerations than cases involving married couples. Here are a few things to know if you are in this position in California:

Establishing paternity

If you weren't married at the time of the baby's birth, you must establish paternity. If both parents agree on who is the father of the baby, a Declaration of Paternity can be signed. This legally establishes this fact as long as it is signed at one of the designated agencies. These include:

  • The hospital (when the baby is born before the birth certificate is filled out)
  • Welfare offices
  • The registrar of births
  • A family law facilitator
  • Child support agency

The Declaration of Paternity can be rescinded within 60 days of the signing. It must be filed with the Department of Child Support Services during this timeframe. There is also the option to challenge the Declaration of Paternity in the court system within two years of the signing as long as one of the two following conditions are met:

  • The parent was forced to sign the document based on fraud or under duress.
  • There is proof via genetic and blood testing that shows the man isn't the father.

Issues to discuss in child custody

You and your ex need to work through the same topics as other parents going through child custody cases. This includes:

  • Where the child will live
  • What visitation schedule applies
  • Who makes decisions for the child
  • Any other stipulations for raising the child

On top of these, a child support order will be put in place. This outlines how the financial aspects of raising the child will be handled. There are several points in this order.

  • Which parent pays child support and the specifics of those payments
  • Who will have medical insurance on the child
  • How uninsured medical expenses will be divided
  • Any other financial obligations, such as paying for school supplies and child care

Most child custody cases are resolved by the parents working together to negotiate the issues at hand. This can be done by using mediation and similar processes. If you are unable to come to mutually amicable terms that are acceptable according to California laws, you might have to go through a trial for the court to issue the order.

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