Legal Issues for Unmarried Couples

When it comes to unmarried couples, the laws regarding child custody, parenting time, and child support are slightly different as opposed to married couples. These differences are important to note if you have a child with someone whom you’re unmarried to as well as if you’re married with a child and thinking about getting a divorce.

The family attorneys at Kelly & Kelly P.C. have over 30 years of experience representing clients involved in divorces, custody disputes, and other legal issues involving families. This includes child custody issues with unmarried or same sex couples in Michigan.

Michigan Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents

Child custody laws are slightly different for unmarried parents. For instance, unless a father obtains a custody order, primary custodial rights to the child will remain with the mother regardless of paternity or whether or not there’s an Affidavit of Parentage.

In other words, the father will not have visitation rights unless agreed upon by the mother or the father files a paternity action and the case is successfully litigated in court.

There are exceptions to this rule in cases where the court already made a prior custody ruling, but for the most part, by default, child custody is presumed to be with the mother in the absence of a marriage or previous legal agreement.

When it comes to unmarried parents, legal issues involving child custody are highly complex, it’s highly advised to speak with a family law attorney for further information on this topic.

Sample of a Michigan child custody legal form with information to fill out that’s titled motion regarding custody

Child Support Laws For Unmarried Couples

The law requires that both biological parents of a child provide necessary support. The amount of child support provided is calculated by the Michigan Child Support Formula. This formula considers several factors. These factors include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Health insurance
  • Income levels
  • The amount of children
  • Education and child care

In short, if someone is a biological parent to a child, they’re required to provide support regardless of their marital status or relationship to the other parent. If it’s undetermined whether or not someone is a biological parent, a paternity test is required to make this determination.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Can an unmarried father take a child from their mother?
The short answer is no. By default, an unmarried mother will have sole custody of the children. If the father wishes to obtain custodial rights to the children, he will have to obtain a court order, adopt the child, or file a paternity action.

Q. Can an unmarried mother take a child from their father?
Unmarried mothers automatically retain custody rights to the children so the short answer is yes.

Q. Do you have to pay child support if you are not married?
Yes, both biological parents to a child are legally required to pay child support.

Q. Who has custody of a child when the parents are not married?
In almost all cases, the mother retains custody rights to a child in the absence of a marriage or court ruling.

Q. My ex and I broke up last week and they left the State of Michigan. What do I do?
If you signed the Affidavit of Parentage when your child was born, and your name appears on your child’s birth certificate, the first thing you should do is contact an attorney to discuss filing a custody action in the appropriate circuit court. At the same time the complaint for custody is filed, a motion requesting a court order for immediate return of your child to the State of Michigan should also be filed.

If you did not sign the Affidavit of Parentage, and your name is not on your child’s birth certificate, then you or your attorney must file a paternity action in the appropriate circuit court in order to establish paternity of your child. Once paternity is established via genetic testing and you have been recognized as the legal and biological father of your child through an order of the court, you can request the return of your child to the State of Michigan.

This is a rather complicated issue and extreme care needs to be used to ensure the appropriate action is taken at each intricate step along the way. Consulting with a highly experienced family law attorney is important in making sure your case is handled correctly. The family law team at Kelly & Kelly has extensive experience in navigating the return of children who are taken out of state by one parent without the other parent’s permission. Contact us today to further discuss the details of your case.