Parents living separately have equal custody, visitation, and child support rights. This is true whether the parents are married, were married, or were never married to each other. When parents were never married to each other, they must take steps to establish themselves as the children’s legal parent. Doing so bestows legal parental rights on both parents, and courts will treat each parent equally when making custody and visitation decisions.

Child custody orders for unmarried parents in Stamford do not differ from orders for married or divorced parents. A local attorney can ensure that both parents have legal rights and help them develop a plan for their children that covers custody, visitation, child support, and other critical issues.

Establishing Parentage Under the Law

When married people have a child, the law presumes both spouses are the child’s parents. The same is true if two people marry soon after birth. However, when an unmarried woman gives birth, she is the child’s sole legal parent unless another person establishes parentage.

Acknowledgment of Parentage

If an unmarried opposite-sex couple wishes to establish the legal rights of both parents, they can complete an Acknowledgment of Parentage form at the hospital or at any time before or after the child’s birth. Both parents must sign the form for it to be valid.

Connecticut General Statutes §46b-472 allows same-sex co-parents who have a child to file an Acknowledgment of Parentage establishing both partners as the child’s legal parents. Same-sex couples should complete the Acknowledgment even if they are married. Doing so ensures each partner has legal parental rights if the couple divorces, separates, or the biological or adoptive parent dies.

Court Proceedings to Establish Parentage

When the parents have not filed an Acknowledgment of Parentage, a father or mother can use the court system to establish their child’s paternity. The parent seeking an acknowledgment of paternity files a petition with the court. The court will order a DNA test. If the results indicate a man is the child’s biological father, the court will issue a determination of paternity. The Stamford man will have the legal rights and obligations of parenthood and can obtain a child custody order for unmarried parents.

Custody Agreement Basics

A court must approve custody, visitation, and child support arrangements when a child has two legal parents who live apart. The couple outlines the agreements regarding these issues in a court-approved parenting plan. A Stamford attorney can help an unmarried couple negotiate a parenting plan and ensure a custody order covers all aspects of the parent’s agreement.

Connecticut courts favor joint physical and legal custody whenever possible. Joint physical custody allows each parent roughly equal time with the children. Joint legal custody means the parents share decision-making responsibility and establish a method for resolving disputes concerning the children.

In some cases, joint physical or legal custody might not be appropriate. One parent can have primary physical custody, and the other might have the right to visitation. One parent might have primary decision-making authority, and the other a right to consultation or information about any decisions. If the parents cannot decide on issues relating to physical or legal custody, each parent will submit a parenting plan to the court, and a judge will make a final decision based on the children’s best interests.

Child’s Best Interest Drives a Court’s Custody Decisions

The law does not favor one parent over another when determining child custody. Each parent has equal rights to participate in the lives of their children.

Courts must consider the child’s best interests when they decide what custody arrangement is most appropriate. Parents who oppose joint custody can present evidence showing that a sole custody arrangement would benefit the children. A Stamford lawyer can help an unmarried parent prepare an argument and supporting evidence that joint physical or legal custody is not in the children’s best interest in a specific order.

If a parent has a history of abuse or neglect, has not been involved in a child’s life, or seems incapable of supporting the other parent’s relationship with the children, a court could order sole custody, supervised visitation, or another arrangement. Connecticut courts usually try to find a solution that protects the children but also preserves their relationships with both parents where possible.

Call an Attorney About Child Custody Orders for Unmarried Parents in Stamford

Being unmarried does not affect child custody and visitation agreements if the child has two legal parents. When a judge issues child custody orders for unmarried parents in Stamford, the children’s best interests must guide the court’s decisions. If you never married your co-parent and need to develop a parenting plan or are already disputing custody, contact a legal representative immediately. With their help, you can establish a custody plan that serves your children’s best interests.

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