Raising a child as an unmarried couple can be difficult. However, the state of Massachusetts has guidelines on how to navigate child custody issues. Some legal issues that unmarried couples will have to consider are: establishing paternity, child support, and visitation. While navigating these issues, it’s in your best interest to hire a competent family law attorney. He or she can help ensure a fair arrangement that most benefits the children.

It’s important to keep in mind that the main goal of child custody is to come to an agreement where the parents are able to raise children together, while being apart. Every child custody agreement looks different; it is very fact-specific depending on the couple’s situation. The one thing all parents have in common regardless of their marital status is that their children permanently connect them. And from this it is important to remember that the child is the reason for the custody matters. When carrying out these discussions, finding the best solution for the child is essential.

Establishing Paternity

In Massachusetts, if child is born into a marriage, the presumption is the husband is the father of the child. However, for a child of an unmarried couple to have a legal father, paternity must be established. A father may establish paternity by signing the birth certificate at the time of the child’s birth or either parent may request a court order for genetic testing. Establishing paternity creates several rights for a child. Some of those rights include: giving the child access to their father’s medical history if they become ill, being financially supported by their father, and receiving access to their father’s services, such as their father’s pension, health insurance, inheritance, and social security.

Child support

Child support is a payment by one parent to the other. It is one way for parents who don’t live together to share the financial responsibility of their child. Massachusetts does not care whether you married the child’s other parent; if you are the legal parent of the child, you are required to support them. Child support payments a determined by the court after they review several factors including:

  • The cost of raising the child, including medical bills and school tuition
  • Monthly expenses of each parent (housing, health care, etc.)
  • Income of each parent.

Usually, one parent will be the primary care taker who bears most of the financial expenses. Therefore it’s the court responsibility to consider the non-exclusive list of factors mentioned above to come up with an appropriate amount the other parent should pay in child support each month. Child support payments can be modified. A modification is warranted if there is a material change in either parent’s income or with the child’s needs.

Visitation order

A visitation order gives the parent who does not live with the child a way to spend time regularly with the child. In some cases, unmarried couples are able to come up with an agreement on their own. In that case, the court will enter the order. However, sometimes non-married parents are unable come up with a visitation order that they both agree on. In situations where the parents are unable to agree, the court will enter its own agreement. Regardless of the parent’s ability to cooperate with one another, when establishing a visitation agreement, the main goal of the court is to come up with an arrangement which serves the best interest of the child.

Regardless of whether you are married or unmarried, the issues surrounding child custody can be complicated and cause emotional distress. It’s essential to keep in mind that when coming to an agreement with a child’s other parent that the child’s best interest is of the utmost importance. If you find yourself in the middle of a dispute regarding paternity, child support, or visitation it is best to seek help from a qualified family law attorney. Our attorneys are able to set emotional drives aside and see the most important thing for the child and represent that throughout the case. Our divorce, family, and domestic relations attorneys may be able to work with you to help resolving you family matters. Contact our offices by phone at (866) 995-6663 during business hours to schedule a free consultation.