Having children outside of marriage is a common choice made by adults from all different backgrounds. The stigma of such scenarios has decreased significantly in recent years, while interest in marriage in some populations has dropped.
Unmarried parents can raise healthy, successful children just like those who get married before having kids. However, unmarried parents are often unsure of their rights and may, therefore, fail to assert them in the ways that married or divorced couples might. Those who take the time to learn about their rights in Maryland may eventually make positive use of what they learn.
The right to establish paternity
A couple does not need to formalize the relationship to have the state recognize the father. Married fathers benefit from a presumption of paternity that puts their name on the birth certificate automatically. Unmarried fathers will need to legally establish paternity to have their name on the birth certificate and the ability to assert their other parental rights. They can establish their paternity either through cooperation with the mother or by asking the courts for support and performing genetic tests.
The right to share custody
When married parents divorce in Maryland, negotiating the division of parenting time, financial responsibility and decision-making authority can be a challenge. However, divorcing parents usually understand that they have the right to ask for time with their children and a say in their upbringing. Unmarried parents, especially fathers, sometimes feel uncertain about their options. They have the same parental rights and responsibilities as married parents, although they may need to establish paternity before making use of those rights in family court.
The right to court support
Most people readily acknowledge that those preparing for divorce will require help from the Maryland family courts. Fewer people acknowledge the important role of family courts may play when unmarried parents separate. When unmarried parents cannot reach an agreement about the division of parental rights and responsibilities, they can turn to the family courts just like married couples can to ask that a judge intervene and create a court order dividing parental authority and assigning responsibilities to specific people.
Understanding the basic rights that parents have regardless of their marital status may benefit those anticipating a major shift in their households in the near future, as well as those who have already experienced such a shift and are trying to adjust accordingly.