Single vs. Married: Your Rights as a Pennsylvania Parent
Gone are the days when having a child out of wedlock was taboo and would earn you the side eye from all your mother’s book club friends. Here are the days where it’s fashionable, and even profitable, for a mother (or father, depending) to raise her (or his) children without the help of the father (or mother, depending). Like it or hate it, welcome to the 21st Century, where family values have shifted far from nuclear. Pennsylvania law has kept up with this major shift in family dynamics, and married parents essentially have the same rights as unmarried parents. However, if you are unmarried, there may be some steps that need to be taken in order to protect your Pennsylvania parental privileges. Woo, that’s a tongue twister.
Married Parents vs. Single Parents
If you are married at the time of the birth, Pennsylvania law assumes that both you and your spouse are the mother and father of your child, and both you and your spouse’s name go on the birth certificate. It’s easy peasy. No additional steps are necessary in attempting to prove any biological relationship to your child.
However, if you are unmarried at the time of birth, absent a court order, the only presumption that exists is that the birth mother is the child’s mother – and this is sort of a no brainer, right? Even though a birth mother is presumed, there is no such presumption for a father. Now, you might be thinking: “Oh no, Nialyn. I was extremely committed to my partner the entire time we were dating. I’m the beacon of monogamy.” Sorry, girl. Pennsylvania law only cares if your significant other treated you like Beyoncé recommended and put a ring on it. Otherwise, the only other ways to establish paternity would be for your partner to voluntarily acknowledge that he is the father or for you to prove it in court by a DNA test. Somebody call Maury.
Unmarried Mothers Rights
All my single mothers put your hands up! One of the many things women have going for them is that there really is no disputing whether or not you are the birth mother of your child. With the invention of C-sections and the occasional hospital baby mix-up, the waters may be a tad murkier, but, overwhelmingly, a baby can only come into this world one way. And a man just can’t do it – sorry, guys.
With that being said, your rights as a single mother are no different than if you were married. You have every right to place your name on little Bobby or Suzie’s birth certificate and fully care for your new bundle of joy. Nothing about your marital status impacts your physical and legal custody of your child.
As mentioned above, if you are unmarried, you will need to take steps to establish paternity and obtain child support. If the father of your child refuses to admit to his newest seedling, you have the right to petition the court to require a genetic test. If the test comes back positive (i.e. indicating paternity), then the court will legally establish parentage. Once paternity is established, you then have the right to seek child support from the biological father. But, be forewarned: a paternity finding also gives the father the ability to seek other parental rights – rights such as physical and legal custody.
Unmarried Fathers Rights
Hey, single fathers, I’m looking at you! While you may not be as integral to the physical birthing process as a woman is, it takes two to “tango.” And she wouldn’t be in a birthing situation if it weren’t for you, am I right? *nudge, nudge*
The good news is: your rights as a father are not diminished by not being married to your child’s mother. The bad news is: if your child’s mother does not want you in the child’s life, you are going to have more of an uphill battle. But, once you establish paternity, you have every right to be named on the birth certificate, to seek physical and/or legal custody, and to possibly obtain child support.
If your child’s mother is a great co-parent, then you can voluntarily acknowledge paternity at the time of your child’s birth – meaning you can sign the birth certificate. After this huge step, you both can work out a parenting plan and child support arrangements without the involvement of the court. However, if your baby’s mama makes it difficult for you to spend time with your child, then you may need to petition the court to establish paternity. Doing so will enable you to prove you are your child’s biological father, put your name on your child’s birth certificate, and eventually ask for custody. As an unmarried father, you must fully establish paternity before you can ask for any parental rights related to the child.
But, be forewarned: if you are successful in establishing paternity, the mother of your child may be able to seek child support. So, you’ll gain both the right to a relationship with your child and the obligation to monetarily support him or her. Alternatively, in certain circumstances, you may be able to ask the court to require the child’s mother to pay child support. It just depends on various variables.
Here at Darbouze Law Group, we understand that navigating your rights as an unmarried parent can be bewildering, befuddling, and bamboozling. Allow us to shine some light on your situation and make single parenthood as smooth as possible. Give us a call today and we can not only discuss your legal rights, but also recite some perplexing tongue twisters – how can a clam cram in a clean cream can?
… okay… we won’t really recite any tongue twisters… we wouldn’t want to accidentally spit on you.
*Our office accepts Pennsylvania family law cases including divorce, equitable distribution, spousal support, alimony pendente lite, alimony, paternity and child support matters, child custody cases, juvenile law cases, and related matters in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Beaver County, Berks County, Butler County, Clearfield County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County (Greensburg).
Our law firm accepts Pennsylvania family law cases from other Pennsylvania counties including Armstrong County (Kittanning), Clarion County, Fayette County, Greene County, Indiana County, Lawrence County, Mercer County, Somerset County, and Venango County.*