Does an Unwed Mother Automatically Get Sole Custody?

Birth Certificate
Birth Certificate. Karl Schatz Getty Images

A reader writes:

I have a question about child custody. My baby's father and I never married, and I did not include his name on the birth certificate. Can I presume that I have sole custody, or do I need to file for custody even though my daughter lives with me?

Ultimately, the answer to this commonly asked question depends on where you live. In some states, like Oklahoma, it is presumed that the mother has sole custody in cases where the parents were unmarried at the time of the child's birth and no father is listed on the birth certificate. However, other states make no presumption of custody based on the birth certificate.

Therefore, it's important that you take the time to learn the child custody laws in your state. Even if you're working closely with a lawyer whom you trust, you'll want to be an advocate for yourself and your child by studying up on the law.
Read Child Custody Laws in the United States to access the domestic relations statutes in your state and familiarize yourself with the local laws that are pertinent to your family's situation.

Photo (c) Nancy Catherine Walker

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