Legal rights for an unwed mother

Written by shannon johnson
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Legal rights for an unwed mother
(Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)

The number of unwed mothers continues to grow, and right along with it has been the increase in paternity suits, child custody and child support battles playing out in family courts all over the nation. Unwed mothers have legal parental rights over unwed fathers, whether the father's name is on the child's birth certificate or not.

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Legal Rights Despite Established Paternity

Paternity is established when the legal system recognises a man as the biological father of a child. Paternity can be established based on the results of a paternity test obtained through a paternity case presented in family court or with a signed declaration claiming responsibility as the biological parent. Different states acknowledge different actions, but both are widely accepted. Despite a father establishing paternity of the child, the mother still retains legal parental rights of the child. Established paternity is important for unwed mothers because it is needed when taking the father to court for child support.

Child Support

Child support is the financial obligation of the father as decided by the court and is dependant on the number of children the father has and his monthly income. In regards to his income, the amount of support is directly proportional: the less he makes, the less support he has to pay, and the more he makes, the more he has to pay. An unwed mother has the legal right to receive child support from the child's father (who has established paternity). Child support can be essential for an unwed mother who requires financial support to raise the baby. The father may or may not be willing to contribute, and sometimes a child support suit is the only way to ensure financial support from him.

Custodial Rights

An unwed mother has superior custody rights over the father (whether his name is on the birth certificate or not), which include the rights of care and control of the child unless otherwise decided. If the father has established paternity, he may contest for more rights, but he has no guaranteed rights before this action is taken. Though he may gain partial custody, he cannot win primary custody over a mother who has provided for and cared for a child.

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