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Unmarried couples can and should have parenting agreements

Unmarried fathers have the right to seek custody and visitation of their biological children, just as married fathers do when they divorce their child's other parent. If legal paternity wasn't established when the child was born and the couple wasn't married, the father will need to take that step before seeking custody and/or visitation rights.

Of course, it's generally best if the two parents can work out a parenting agreement with the help of their attorneys rather than having a judge hear the case. If they can reach an agreement, a judge only needs to approve it and incorporate it into a court order so that it can be legally enforced by either party. If they can't work out a parenting agreement, the judge will make the decision based on what is in the child's best interests.

Just as with parenting agreements for divorced couples, these agreements for unmarried parents who have gone their separate ways or who don't live together can be as detailed as the parents choose. They can cover any number of issues in addition to custody and visitation rights, such as who will have the right to make decisions regarding the child's medical care, education and religious upbringing.

Of course, parenting agreements can be modified. This is often necessary has a child grows up or as circumstances in the parents' lives change. As with the original agreement, they can work out the modifications with the assistance of their attorneys or by taking their issues to a judge.

Maryland family law attorneys can help work to protect a parent's rights to custody of his or her child. They can also help fathers who seek to establish paternity of their child and mothers who want to want the father of their child to take legal responsibility.

Source: FindLaw, "Child Visitation, Child Custody and Unmarried Fathers," accessed Feb. 15, 2016

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