What Happens When an Unmarried Couple With a Child Separate in Pennsylvania?
When an unmarried couple with a child separates in Pennsylvania, both parents have rights and responsibilities related to the child.
How to Prepare for Separating as Unmarried Parents
Unmarried parents should consider the types of custody they are seeking along with the objective evidence they will need to provide the court to support their case. Gathering evidence relating to proof of parentage such as a birth certificate, paternity test results, or an order of adoption is significant to meet the 16 child custody factors the Court will utilize when making its custody award. Because the 16 factors are not weighed equally, parents should prepare themselves to clearly explain why the custody being sought is in the child’s best interest.
Determining Custody of Your Child
In Pennsylvania, there is no presumption that the child is better off with one parent or the other, but in the instance of primary physical custody there is a rebuttable presumption that the child is better off with a parent than a non-parent. Each case is unique, and parents must give exceptional thought and planning to their child’s physical and legal custody. This can be a very emotional process and one in which the needs of the child must outweigh the personal feelings toward the other parent.
Unmarried Fathers Rights in Pennsylvania
An unmarried father has legal rights to his child which may include legal and physical custody, as well as child support. You must establish paternity before those rights can be sought or enforced. Establishing paternity through the Court is a very effective method in helping a father maintain and pursue their relationship with their child.
Calculating Child Support for Unmarried Parents
For unmarried parents, child support obligations are substantially similar to that of married parents. A mathematical-based formula is outlined in the Pennsylvania Guidelines for Child Support; however, there are multiple factors and nuances to the calculations. The Court also has the discretion not to follow the formula guidelines where special or unique circumstances are proven. Support is an income-based calculation where the total net monthly income of both parents determine the total support figure for a child(ren).
Common Law Marriage in Pennsylvania
Although recognition of Common Law Marriage in Pennsylvania essentially ended in 2005 for relationships that can be proven by the parties to have begun before 2005, the Court may find that a common law marriage existed. The parties must present clear and convincing evidence that they acted and lived as a married couple, had the intent to enter into a marriage and the legal capacity to do so. If the Court rules that a common law marriage exists, this gives the parties the same rights as a couple considered married in a religious or civil ceremony.
Final Thoughts on Unmarried Parents Splitting Up
Child custody arrangements can be complicated and frustrating to understand, especially without the guidance of an experienced child custody lawyer. Having the best advocate who explains the process and your rights, as well as someone who truly cares about you and your family, is extremely important. Put our decades of combined experience to work for you!