How does child custody rights work for a couple that has not been married and live in California? 10 Answers as of March 28, 2011

What is the law when it comes to two individuals who were never married and have a child together? Is there a set rule for child custody if the relationship ends? We never had a written agreement.

Ask a Local Attorney. 100% Anonymous. Free Answers.

Free Case Evaluation by a Local Lawyer: Click here
Goodman, Dicus, and Teinert, LLP
Goodman, Dicus, and Teinert, LLP | Paul M. Teinert
The first thing that you need to do is file a paternity action. From there you can ask the court to provide you with an order for custody, child support and a visitation plan. The standard of law when deciding custody is to do what is in the "best interest of the child."
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 3/28/2011
Law Office of Curry & Westgate
Law Office of Curry & Westgate | Patrick Curry
You must obtain a paternity judgment and custody order from the court.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 3/17/2011
Law Office of John C. Volz
Law Office of John C. Volz | John C. Volz
There is no set rule for custody in a situation where the parents have not been married. A child custody and visitation case must still be filed with the courts if there is a dispute concerning custody.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 3/14/2011
Pisarra and Grist
Pisarra and Grist | David T. Pisarra
There are no set rules, but as the father you have rights to be a parent to your child. I suggest you read my books, A MAN'S GUIDE TO CHILD CUSTODY and A MAN'S GUIDE TO DIVORCE STRATEGY. You have to take action to protect yourself, if you don't she will.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 3/11/2011
Law Office of Joseph A. Katz
Law Office of Joseph A. Katz | Joseph A. Katz
Instead of a divorce/dissolution proceeding, you file a Paternity action. There is certainly no set rule regarding child custody when your relationship ends. The factors the court considers are the same as if you were married - e.g., suitability and fitness as parents, availability to care for the children and the ability to provide, etc., all related to the best interests of the children on the whole. The forms for a Paternity action are somewhat different. Any Clerk's Office can probably provide you with a packet of forms. There will be an instruction sheet with the forms. They are also available on the California Judicial Council website. You need to file an action to obtain formal orders. The Court will make orders upon your request regarding custody, visitation and child support.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 3/11/2011
    Michael Apicella
    Michael Apicella | Apicella Law and Mediation
    Custody is based on the child's "best interests." That is a legal term of art, and it is a vague term that requires an analysis of many factors, such as what has been the status quo since the parents split up, assuming they have. I.e., who has the child been living with, and how much time has the child spent with the other parent? Does one parent work, and one not? Where does each parent live? What is the living situation of each parent? Does one or both parents have any behavior problems, like alcoholism, drug abuse, anger management issues, etc.? Because you are not married, you need to file a paternity action (called Uniform Parentage Action, or UPA). Best to call a local lawyer who can advise you on your rights and how to proceed with getting custody orders. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/11/2011
    Maclean Chung Law Firm
    Maclean Chung Law Firm | G. Thomas MacLean Jr.
    In cases were you were never married but have a child together, you have to file a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship to legally establish the rights of the father (since the mother gives birth, there rarely is a question of her paternity status).

    You can have an agreement or get a court order for issues such as custody, visitation, and child support under this type of petition. If both parents recognize the child is theirs, then you can stipulate to that, but if the father isn't sure or disagrees, you may have to prove paternity. As far as how custody is split, there is no set rule, but if it goes to a court, they will always base it on what is in the best interest if the children, not necessarily what each parent wants. If both parents are active in raising the children, it is common to have a joint, equally shared custody agreement.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/11/2011
    Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser
    Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser | Donald F. Conviser
    There is no set arrangement, law or rule, although there is a preference for Joint custody, to ensure frequent and continuing contact of the children with each parent.

    That does not necessarily mean 50/50 physical custody, but if it could, and if the parties can cooperate with each other, they should have joint legal custody, to make decisions together regarding the children's health, education and welfare, and perhaps other areas as well. The same family courts that handle divorce cases handle Uniform Parentage Act (Paternity) cases. If an arrangement is worked out, it should be reduced to a Stipulation and Order filed in a pending Paternity case, to make it enforceable.

    My suggestion is that you try to work out the parental timeshare, and if unable to work it out, file a Uniform Parentage Act case, use the mediation available through your court to try to work it out, and if unable to work it out in mediation, file an Order to Show Cause for legal custody, physical custody, and visitation (as well as Child Support and Attorney's fees if you are the mother).

    If you work out a custody arrangement (and/or child support and/or attorney's fees), a Stipulation and Order setting forth the arrangement, etc. should be filed in the Uniform Parentage Act case, for the Court to sign the order thereon. You would best consult an experienced Family Law Attorney to discuss the facts of your matter, before filing a case or preparing a Stipulation and Order to file in a case, and if you can afford to retain the attorney, that would be preferable so that you could receive the benefit of the attorney's education, training and experience.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/11/2011
    Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP
    Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP | Hal D. Bartholomew
    Unmarried or married - there are no differences in child custody rights in California. The same rules apply to both married and unmarried parents. Both parents have the same rights. If the two of you can not agree on how to share the child , the you must seek the help of the court to make these decisions for you. The court must refer you to mandatory child custody mediation. How this is done varies from county to county. You should consult with an attorney in your county or visit the Family Law Facilitators office located at your local county courthouse.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/11/2011
    Law Office of L. Paul Zahn
    Law Office of L. Paul Zahn | Paul Zahn
    The only rule in California is that a custody order must be in the best interests of the child. The fact that the parents were never married isn't relevant. If you are looking for assistance with your case, please contact me for a free consultation.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/11/2011
Click to View More Answers: