In Nebraska and elsewhere, more people are becoming parents while unmarried. It’s fair to wonder what rights these parents have with respect to child custody.
The child custody rights of unwed parents
If a child is born out of wedlock in Nebraska and the father is unknown or doesn’t acknowledge his paternity, the mother automatically has custody rights. When the biological father is in the picture and acknowledges his relationship with the child, he has the same rights as the mother.
There are two situations pertaining to the father: he signed the birth certificate or did not sign it but wishes to establish paternity. In the latter scenario, the father would have to get a DNA paternity test to prove that he is the child’s biological father.
How child custody is awarded to unmarried parents
When parents are not married, the mother is often awarded sole legal and physical custody of the child. However, in some situations, the court could split custody between her and the child’s father.
Either parent can file for custody. However, the court requires that unmarried parents work together and present a co-parenting plan. If there is already an agreement in place regarding a co-parenting plan, the court can enforce it as part of a child custody order. However, if the parents are unable to agree, the judge might order them to undergo mediation to reach an agreement. If that ends up unsuccessful, the case then goes to trial and a judge will make a decision on custody.
Whenever the court decides on custody, it takes into account what’s considered in the child’s best interests. In most cases, that includes having both parents in the child’s life.
Unless one parent is deemed unfit for custody, unwed parents have the same rights toward their children.