You and your partner never got married, and it was a conscious choice. Marriage wasn’t right for you, even though you decided to have children together.
You’re in an unusual position now, though. You want to separate because you’ve both decided that living together and having a relationship is no longer right for you. However, since you weren’t married but were in a committed relationship, you didn’t go through the process of determining paternity.
When you’re not married, custody can be tricky
When two people aren’t married, custody isn’t as simple to determine as when they are. To begin with, it’s necessary to determine if the father is the biological father, especially if he was not listed on the birth certificate or didn’t take legal steps to assume parentage in the past.
Fathers can establish paternity to obtain custody rights. You and your children’s mother may both agree that you’re the father and sign a voluntary acknowledgment. You may also ask the court to have a DNA test to prove paternity if you have not voluntarily acknowledged it in the past.
Until you prove paternity, you have no rights
Unfortunately, until you prove that you are the legal parent of your children, you won’t have the right to custody. If you already acknowledged paternity in the past, then you can go to court and ask for a custody agreement and schedule. You and your children’s mother may also agree to a schedule and submit it to the court for approval.
Since you’re not married, you may also have to pay child support, which is something to discuss with the mother of your children as well as your attorney. Proving that you are the father through a DNA test will establish your children’s right to support. It will also give you a legal right to seek custody.
Proving paternity, if you didn’t in the past, is important to staying connected to your children and obtaining legal rights as a biological parent. If you will be separating, talk to your ex-partner about setting up a custody schedule so that you can continue to be in your children’s lives.