In the United States today, just over half of children are born to unmarried parents. In Kentucky alone, 35.5% of parents are unmarried. Most unmarried child custody cases abide by the same laws, procedures, and processes adhered to in custody cases of married couples. The court system in Kentucky ultimately seeks to examine the situation and determine what is in the best interests of the child or children when addressing visitations and parenting time.
The family lawyers at Clagett & Barnett in Elizabethtown have put together a few guidelines for the custody rights of unmarried parents in Kentucky.
Examining the Best Interests of the Child
No matter if a child’s parents are married or unmarried, it is most likely that they care deeply about their child or children and want what is best for them. Of course, this may involve factors that both parties cannot agree on if the parties are separated or are in the process of separating, and the Court might need to be involved in determining the appropriate course of action.
Many factors come into play when assessing what is best for the child and how custody is determined, including:
- If the child has any special needs
- The stability of the two households in question
- The physical, mental, financial, and emotional health of the parents
- Involvement or assistance from other family members
- The presence of drug and/or alcohol abuse, domestic violence, neglect
- Community factors, including school, religion, etc.
- The child’s wishes (if they are old enough to communicate this)
In addition to the child’s welfare, another important issue that must be addressed in child custody cases between unmarried parents in Kentucky is establishing paternity.
The Rights of Unmarried Fathers in Kentucky
When a child is born to unmarried parents in Kentucky, paternity must be established before the father has any rights to visitation or custody. However, if a man is listed on the child’s birth certificate, the Court will then assume that that named individual is the child’s biological father. Another option is for both parents to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (VAP), which is overseen by the Kentucky Paternity Acknowledgement Program. Should this form be completed and executed, then paternity is deemed assigned, and the father can request visitation, child support, and/or custody. Likewise, the mother can request child support if the couple does not remain together.
In the instance that the birth certificate does not list the name of the father, then paternity must be established through genetic testing. If a link through DNA is established, the Court will make a judgment on paternity, and the father will have his name added to the birth certificate of their child. Normal custody, visitation rights, and other support determinations can then proceed.
Unmarried Parents Have Constitutional Rights
No matter if parents are married or unmarried, so long as the individuals are deemed the biological mother and father of a child, they have a constitutional right to care for their children.
In custody matters, unmarried parents may seek sole or joint custody. In the instance of sole custody, one parent will be awarded full decision making ability, and the other parent may be offered parenting time with their child. This is most often the situation where it has been deemed that one parent offers a better or more stable home environment to their child, has the means to support the child, or if there is proof of drug, alcohol, or domestic abuse in relation to the other parent.
Partner with a Family Lawyer in Elizabethtown, Kentucky
If you are an unmarried parent who is dealing with custody and visitation issues with your ex-partner, it is imperative that you have a legal advisor who can ensure your best interests, as well as those of your child, are realized.
The family lawyers at Clagett & Barnett in Elizabethtown have extensive experience helping unmarried parents in Kentucky manage and resolve custody disputes. Reach out to our team and schedule a consultation today.