Skip to main content
(866) 465-5395 Schedule a Consultation (866) 465-5395 Schedule a Consultation

Custody for Unmarried Maryland Couples

| |

Being a father can be an incredibly fulfilling experience in life. However, for fathers who are not married to their child’s mother, the situation can sometimes become complex. In Maryland, unmarried spouses still possess significant rights regarding their children, regardless of marital status. Here is what you need to know about the rights of unmarried spouses in Maryland.

Establishing paternity is a crucial initial step in Maryland.

When parents are unmarried, the mother is granted sole legal and physical custody of the child by default. However, the father can prove his paternity to gain rights of guardianship and visitation. Unmarried parents are subject to the same child custody laws as divorcing guardians, with the key distinction being the requirement for the father to establish paternity in court. Typically, if the parents are unmarried, the mother is generally awarded sole physical custody unless or until the father takes appropriate legal action to seek custody.

Process of Establishing Paternity

In the state of Maryland, from a legal standpoint, a child born to unmarried parents does not have a father unless certain steps are taken.

  1. An unmarried father must sign the child’s birth certificate and obtain an affidavit of parentage before the child turns 18. This establishes paternity and enforces the rights of unmarried fathers in Maryland.
  2. Paternity can be established through an Affidavit of Parentage form or a court order. If the father refuses to sign the form, it does not release him from his financial responsibilities towards the child. The court may order a DNA test to establish paternity.
  3. Other ways to establish paternity include a court declaration, written acknowledgment of paternity, or marrying the mother and acknowledging fatherhood orally or in writing.

Reasons to Establish Paternity

As an unmarried father, it is crucial to establish paternity for several reasons. Custody, child support, and visitation matters rely on establishing paternity. Without being recognized as the child’s legal father by Maryland courts, you may be unable to apply for visitation rights or child custody.

Establishing paternity Establishing paternity provides numerous benefits. It ensures an informed and structured relationship between a father and child, creating a legal bond that grants survivors rights. Additionally, it allows for access to essential benefits such as child support, inheritance rights, and access to medical history. By establishing paternity, children and fathers can have a stronger foundation for their relationship and secure their legal rights and protections.

Custody Matters

Unmarried fathers who have legally established their paternity have the same rights as married parents under Maryland’s child custody laws. Once paternity is confirmed, the mother will no longer be presumed the sole primary caregiver. Both parents will have an equal opportunity to seek guardianship of the child.

Regarding visitation rights, when the mother is the custodial parent, the child’s father is entitled to “reasonable visitation.” In such cases, the courts allow the parents to collaborate and determine appropriate visitation times and durations that work for everyone involved. It is essential for both parents to work together to reach an agreement that is suitable and beneficial for all parties concerned.

Parenting Is More Than Physical Presence

Establishing paternity goes beyond just physical interaction; it encompasses legal, emotional, and financial responsibilities. These aspects are crucial for the holistic development of the child. By establishing paternity, parents can uphold their rights and fulfill their obligations, ensuring the well-being of their child.

Decision-making rights: These involve having a say in significant decisions about the child’s welfare, education, health, and religious upbringing.
Access to records: The established father has the right to access the child’s school and medical records.
Emergency medical decision rights: In case of a health crisis, the father can make crucial medical decisions on behalf of the child.
Inheritance rights: The child can inherit from the father, and vice versa.
Financial responsibility: The father is obligated to contribute to the child’s financial well-being through child support.
Visitation rights: The father has the right to spend time with his child, with visits arranged as per the child’s best interests.
Right to seek custody: The father can apply for physical and legal custody of the child.

Clients Also Ask

What are fathers’ rights in Maryland?

As an unmarried father in Maryland, you have certain rights when it comes to your child; these include the right to establish paternity, seek custody and visitation, and provide financial support for your child. By establishing paternity, you can ensure that your relationship with your child is legally recognized and protected.

What are the parental rights for “non-parental” parents in Maryland?

In Maryland, non-married same-sex couples can now have parental rights. The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that “de facto” parents can seek custody and visitation rights. This includes scenarios like a lesbian partner undergoing artificial insemination, a gay man whose partner adopted a child from a country that doesn’t allow joint adoption by same-sex couples, and a man who has raised a child with a woman without a formal adoption. For more information on parental rights for non-parental parents in Maryland, please visit this page:

Can Custody Be Modified In Maryland?

Yes, custody arrangements can be modified in Maryland under certain circumstances—parent can request a modification of custody if there has been a significant change in circumstances that affects the best interests of the child. This could include a parent’s relocation, a change in the child’s needs, or a major shift in one parent’s ability to care for the child.

Get Legal Support From Our Family Law team

If you have additional questions about establishing paternity, or any other laws relating to unmarried couples in Maryland, we’re here to help. To further discuss your case and plan your next steps, we invite you to call our office and set up an appointment with one of our experienced lawyers. We’re dedicated to protecting your rights and providing the legal guidance you need during this important time. Contact us today to arrange a consultation.

Client Testimonials

Here's what our clients have to say about working with us. Please note, results may vary based on individual circumstances.

Melinda Previtera, Esq. came highly recommended to our family. Her knowledge base, professionalism, and compassion paved the way for a successful outcome. Melinda is efficient, detailed, and informative. She helps manage expectations, and postures her client for a fair and equitable result. We are happy to recommend Melinda!

Jennifer A.

My experience was very good. Everyone was professional and attentive to my needs, keeping me updated every step of the way. I couldn’t ask for a better result, highly recommended.

David R.

My marriage life has been a hell for me for the past four years until I decided to put an end to what has to be ended. Choosing a lawyer was another additional stressful part of the long process. I’m so glad that I’ve found the right one for me at Petrelli Previtera. Life isn’t always fair, but at least having her in my corner, felt even better. I couldn’t recommend her highly enough!

Caitlin B.

Serving Clients at the Following Locations

Bethesda4800 Hampden Lane, Suite 200 Bethesda MD 20814(301) 234-7409view details
Maryland5425 Wisconsin Ave Chevy Chase, MD 20815(301) 889-8085view details
schedule a consultation Today
Contact Us Fill out the form or call us today (866) 465-5395