A situation that is becoming more common in our society is families with unmarried parents separating. This process is where a couple, who has been in a committed relationship together and may have children either naturally or through adoption, decides to dissolve their relationship. While this is similar to a traditional marriage separation there are different laws that surround how an unmarried separations operates, especially when children are involved. Here is what you need to know to be prepared if you find yourself in this situation.
The first course of action by the court system is to establish who the parents are when a couple is unmarried. Motherhood is fairly easily to establish because they are traditionally placed on the birth certificate when the child is born. If the father was present at the time of birth, he is often presented a form called a paternity affidavit or acknowledgement. This form requires both parents to sign at the time of birth and becomes a legally binding document in establishing the parents of the child. However, if the other parent was not placed on the birth certificate or completed the paternity affidavit they have to work with the court system to establish they are the father of the child. Typically, if the child was born biologically a father will seek to conduct a paternity test to establish the validity of his parenthood. The paternity test typically looks at a combination of genetic markers and other DNA factors to determine if the father and child match. For couples who have adopted children, there is more work to be done in the court system to help establish who the parents of the child are.
The second course of action after both parents have been established is to determine who will be the primary caregiver. In Washington State this is called a parenting plan. This parenting plan helps to make clear who will be the main parent and who will get visitation rights. By providing an acceptable schedule for both parents, the children can make an easier transition in an already difficult situation.
The third step of action in this legal situation is to determine if there will be child support or spousal support paid during the separation. This is where the separation of unmarried couples is similar to those of traditional marriages. This step can be the most contentious and difficult to get through due to the direct impact on both parties finances. More often than not, both parents will seek legal counsel to preserve their own self interests.
In closing, the legal process of dissolving a marriage whether it is a couple with a marriage license or a couple who has remained unmarried is a challenging one. This is even more true for unmarried couples who have children. The transition to two different households is hard on all members of the family. For those parents who have either had children biologically or through adoption and do not have a formal marriage license, it is important to make sure the children can have the smoothest transition possible. Additionally, it is important the both parties remain civil so that they can put the best parenting plan in place so that the children can thrive as much as possible. Lastly, it is critical that both parties select legal representation that can advocate for their needs in the court of law, to establish parenthood and create a fair parenting plan. At Andrews & Arbenz we are a Gig Harbor divorce attorney firm that can help represent you and your legal situation in the best way possible. Contact us today to learn more of how we can help you.