For couples that never married, their relationship ends at the moment they decide to split up. There’s no need to go through the divorce process, which can be costly and take months.

However, if the couple has had children together, it’s a different story. They will probably still have some semblance of a relationship until the children are adults if they decide to continue co-parenting.

If you are a parent that has recently split up with your partner and co-parent, you are probably curious about how custody works and how to reach an agreement.

Child custody for unmarried parents

One of the main components of child custody is establishing paternity. When parents are legally married, the husband is presumed to be the father. So, in cases where the parents did not marry, the father will have to prove his paternity. He must do this before filing for child custody.

According to Michigan state law, custody will generally reside with the unmarried mother until the father can confirm his paternity.

Establishing paternity

If you are the child’s father and you were never married to their mother, you must file an Affidavit of Parentage. The form is usually presented to fathers at the hospital at the time of birth, so most fathers won’t have to jump through any extra hoops.

However, if you did not, for whatever reason, sign this form, you will have to do so and submit it to the court. It is a simple, one-page form that is easy to complete and submit.

If there is any doubt or disagreement surrounding paternity, the parents can ask the court to intervene with genetic testing.

Reaching an agreement

Ideally, the parents would be able to make arrangements on their own regarding child custody and visitation. As long as what they decide is in the best interest of the child, the court should approve it.

However, if the parents cannot reach an agreement or the court does not find it satisfactory, then the court will create a custody order.

Navigating the process

If the process isn’t going as smoothly as you thought it would, consider seeking guidance from a family law attorney. They can advocate for you in court to ensure you get the best outcome possible.