Marriages fall apart, and eventually lead to divorce.
But unmarried couples go through rough breakups especially when the whole legal discourse is into play. With children, with property and asset distribution, breakups often get messy if things get to court.
For unmarried couples, legally splitting involves a lot of complications and emotional trauma, especially if there is common ground for both of them to fight over: children or an apartment or mortgages. Here is what happens when unmarried couples decide to break up, legally.
Unmarried Couple with Child Splitting Up
Married or unmarried; if the couple has children, things get super messy. The most important factor where both parents agree on mutual ground is the wellbeing and emotional health of the child and them being able to handle it maturely.
Child custody in an unmarried couple case goes straight to the court, where the custody is granted towards the most deserving factor, of course, on the basis of what will benefit the child. Some of the factors on which the decision is based are as such:
- Emotional and psychological health of the child as per new circumstances
- Whether each parent will promote a parent-child relationship with the other parent
- Whether the parents can communicate effectively
- How much each parent contributed to the child’s upbringing
- How geographically close or far the parents are to each other
- Any other criteria that is significant to the decision
If the child is twelve years or older, there is some say of the child in custody matters, and they are allowed to express which parent they want to live with. For special cases, the judge and the child may also have a private discussion about their wishes.
If the child is less than twelve years of age, the custody is usually granted to the mother unless she is proved unfit or unstable to take care of the child.
When the case is brought to court and both parties provide justifications as to which of them would be a better parent, eventually a decision is made and one parent is given child custody. As for the other, they’re ordered to provide for child support and given visitation privilege.
Can an Unmarried Father take the Child from Mother?
In the situation of a married couple, it is obvious the father is the legal parent. For an unmarried couple, there has to be a legal establishment of paternity. For unwed fathers, they have to establish paternity by signing the birth certificate of the child and having their name written on it.
If that is so, the father takes equal responsibility in the upbringing of the child. Then only the father is given parental rights. This way the father can apply for joint custody of the child along with the mother.
An unmarried father cannot take the child from the mother if the custody has been given to her. He can only comply with the court order and make sure the visitation hours are given to him.
If the unwed father doesn’t gain custody, they will have to pay for child support. The only way to get away from this situation is to get his paternity rights terminated. This way he can avoid paying for child support, but will also have absolutely no say or involvement in the child’s life and welfare decisions.
The father is liable to comply with court orders, and if the father won’t give the child back to the mother, she can file a motion to the court, contact her attorney or even call the police that the child has been kept illegally from her.
Keeping a Child away from the other Parent can Backfire
If the court has granted custody to one parent, the other naturally has some visitation hours on their side. It is usually on weekends or maybe a couple of hours every week. Legally, if that is so, the custodial parent cannot keep the child away from the other parent unless absolutely necessary.
If the parent feels that the child is being abused physically or sexually in the environment, or that the other parent is an alcoholic or drug user which could have a negative impact on the child, then only the custodial parent could go to court and get the visitation hours modified by not letting the other parent near the child.
However, if the custodial parent tries to manipulate the situation by deliberately not letting the child meet the other parent, the situation can backfire and can have severe consequences.
Common examples of how a parent may keep the child from her other parent are:
- Failure to show up at scheduled meeting places to allow the other parent to begin their custody time as ordered by the court.
- Failure to answer any phone calls, text messages, or emails regarding custody concerns.
- Failure to answer the front door when the other parent comes to receive the child for their court-ordered custody time.
- Failure to include or involve the other parent in any significant decisions that involve such issues as academics, religion, extra-curricular activities or medical treatments.
If such a case happens for example where the mother will not allow father to see the child, the case could backfire because the court could revise their decision and give custody to the father, and sometimes even allow less visitation hours than usual for the mother. Moreover, depending on the extent of contempt of court, the parent could also be given jail time- although that happens very rarely.
Where a child was being deliberately kept or brainwashed against the other parent, karma works in different ways. The custodial parent could now be legally kept from seeing their child and they will have to obey the decision of the court. The parent being stripped of their right can file a motion, take the case back to court, press contempt of court charges on the other parent or call the police. So such a situation can have more consequences, so the best way is to mutually agree on court orders.
When an unmarried couple breaks up, the biggest trauma and pressure of the relationship falls on the heads of the child. If they’re in their tender age, they could retaliate and rebel against the situation, so parents make sure everything is handled with care.
However, sometimes, things ought to get messy. Especially when there is custody issue going on. Usually mothers get the custody of the child in an unmarried situation unless she is deemed obviously unfit by the court. The other parent, who is usually the father, gets some visitation hours and has to pay child support too.
The best way to handle such a situation is not to drag the child in the quarrel, and both parents should agree to make the child’s well being their first priority. They should definitely comply with court orders and refrain from petty revenge that may affect the mental health of the child.