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Determining child custody for unmarried California parents

When couples who have had one or more children together but never married split up, child custody needs to be determined just as it would for parents who are divorcing. Under California law, custody determinations are made using the same considerations whether the parents are married or unmarried.

However, if the parents weren't living together, determining custody "can be complicated for logistical reasons," according to one Los Angeles attorney. The parent who wasn't living in the home with the child may have to make significant changes to his or her own home to accommodate a child. That parent may also have a lot to learn about caring for the child's daily needs.

In some cases, a man has only recently learned that he fathered a child and wants to be part of that child's life. In situations where the father has no history with the child, a court may order a "step up" plan. The father will get increasingly more time with the child as he shows that he's able to care for him or her.

The good news for California parents who want to be part of their children's lives, even if they've done little if any parenting of them in the past, is that state law encourages relationships between children and responsible, loving parents. It also frowns on parents who withhold a child from another responsible parent or don't tell a father that he has a child.

As in just about every jurisdiction throughout the country, California courts focus on what's in the best interests of the children when custody decisions need to be made. If you are an unmarried parent seeking custody of your child, an experienced California family law attorney can provide valuable guidance.

Source: Romper, "Who Gets Custody If The Parents Aren't Married? Experts Explain The Law," Caroline Shannon-Karasik, accessed May 15, 2018

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