It is increasingly common for couples to become parents without marrying first. There is also a distinct possibility that you may someday break up from your children’s other parent. However, while divorce laws are extensive, the rules that apply in this scenario are sometimes murkier.
Because of the resulting ambiguity, it is no wonder that you may feel confusion over your rights and responsibilities as a parent after splitting up from an unmarried partner. According to Consumer Affairs, many of your parental rights and obligations are the same regardless of whether or not you ever married your co-parent. Nevertheless, some misunderstandings about child custody still persist, especially as it relates to unmarried co-parenting.
1. Custody is not only about where a child lives
When you hear the word “custody,” you probably think about physical custody, i.e., where the child lives. This is only one of two types of custody, however. The other type is legal custody, which grants the right to make decisions on the child’s behalf until he or she has the maturity to make them on his or her own.
It is common for parents to share legal custody even if they do not share physical custody jointly. Sole physical custody is also gradually becoming the exception rather than the norm.
2. Parenting time is not contingent on child support payments
Many parents mistakenly view a quid pro quo relationship between child support and parenting time. In other words, if you do not pay child support as ordered, the other parent may try to “punish” you by interfering with your parenting time.
However, this is a violation of the court’s visitation order and could mean trouble for the other parent. You do not earn visitation by paying child support. The court regards parenting time as the child’s right. If you do not pay child support, there will probably be repercussions, but they should not involve parenting time interference.
3. Mothers do not automatically get custody
Many parents mistakenly believe that the courts automatically favor mothers in custody decisions. That is not true. Under the law of New York state, there is no presumption that children are better off with either parent. Therefore, the court makes custody decisions in your case based on what it determines to be in your children’s interests.
The law does not presume the paternity of an unmarried father the way it does for the mother’s husband. Therefore, you may have to establish paternity before you can claim custody rights.