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California Child Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents


Unmarried couples with children face many of the same legal obstacles that married couples do when it comes to determining child custody agreements. One of the most important considerations in a child custody case is the paternal status of the unmarried couple:

  • Mother’s Right to Custody: Unmarried mothers are presumed the primary or natural right to custody of the children she gave birth to. Her rights for custody, care, and control over the child are superior to the father’s or any other person. However, her rights can be revoked if it can be proven that she is an unfit parent or that she has abandoned her child.
  • Father’s Right to Custody: An unmarried father can take action to be awarded custody of their child. If a dad’s name is on the birth certificate, he will be recognized as the child’s legal father and will have equal status with the mother in court. If a father’s name isn’t on the birth certificate, their custody rights will hinge on their ability to portray their suitability for parenting. Although an unwed father can’t win primary physical custody over a mother who is a good parent, they might be able to establish limited custody or visitation rights.

Courts typically consider the following when determining the “best interest of a child”:

  • Who the primary caregiver of the child is.
  • The moral character of the parents.
  • Each parent's financial status.
  • Parent’s age and health.
  • The preference of the child.

Because child support is based on the needs of the children and each parent’s income, the parent who gets custody of the child might also be entitled to child support in some cases. An experienced attorney can help you assess your legal entitlements.

At Chung & Ignacio, LLP, our legal team has an in-depth understanding of the laws concerning child custody rulings. We can review your legal situation and help you fight for your rights. Let us put our skills and experience to work for you.

Call (909) 726-7112, or contact our Rancho Cucamonga team of child custody attorneys to begin your free consultation today.