Basic Custody Rights for Unmarried Mothers

Confused Child with Broken FamilyBeing a single mother is tough and comes with many sacrifices, not only for her family but also for herself. The legal system recognizes this, so when an unmarried woman gives birth, she receives legal rights automatically with full control over the welfare of her child. This only occurs, however, when the identity of the father remains unassumed and until he establishes legal paternity.

If you are an unmarried mother, below are four legal considerations you should know:

Custody Rights

As an unmarried mother, you have legal custody of your child even without having to go to court. Your basic rights are as follows:

  • the right to decide who sees the child and for how long
  • the right to restrict visitation
  • the right to provide education
  • the right to provide medical treatment
  • the right to receive public benefits for the child
  • the right to do anything else a parent with legal custody can do

Establishment of Paternity

Unmarried mothers cannot seek child support from the father, especially if he hasn’t legally established paternity. This gives the father no legal rights as well. If the father wishes to establish paternity, Lewis & Matthews, P.C. and other family law attorneys say that he can do so by undertaking a DNA test or by signing a voluntary declaration. The mother can deny this but the father can still petition the case in court.


There are two kinds of granted visitation, namely supervised and unsupervised. Supervised visitations require the presence of a third party during each visit, while unsupervised visitations allow the mother and the father to agree on a time and location. Only the court can grant these.

Child Support

When a court accepts paternity, the father becomes financially responsible for the child, whether he receives visitation rights or not. The court will determine the amount of support and the schedule of payments. Unmarried mothers can also discuss this with the father while in court.

It’s not easy being a single mother but with the help of the legal system, all can fare well in the end. Make sure to seek the advice of a lawyer when doing so.