Who Has Legal Rights to a Child If Not Married?

Who Has Legal Rights to a Child If Not Married? Well, read this article on legal matters to gain insights.

If you are an unwed parent, you may have questions about your legal rights and responsibilities to your child.

Who gets to make decisions about the child’s education, health, and welfare?

Who gets to spend time with the child and how often?

And Who has to pay child support and how much?

These are some of the issues that can arise when parents are not married.

In this article, I will explain the basics of parental rights and responsibilities for unwed parents, and how they can be established and enforced.

I will also provide some tips and resources for resolving any disputes or conflicts that may arise between unwed parents with my skills as a legal matter expert.

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Who Has Legal Rights to a Child If Not Married?

What Is Parental Responsibility?

Parental responsibility is the legal term for the rights and duties that parents have towards their children.

It includes:

  • The right to have a say in important decisions affecting the child’s life, such as where they live, what school they go to, what religion they follow, etc.
  • The duty is to provide the child with a safe and stable home, food, clothing, medical care, education, etc.
  • The right to have a relationship with the child and spend time with them (also known as custody or visitation)
  • The duty to support the child financially (also known as child support)

Parental responsibility is not affected by whether the parents are married or not.

Each parent ordinarily has parental responsibility for the child regardless of whether they are married, in a de facto relationship, never in a relationship, or otherwise.

This means that both parents can independently make decisions about the child.

However, parental responsibility can be limited or removed by a court order in some cases, such as when a parent is abusive, neglectful, or unfit.

How do I get responsibility for my child if I’m not married

As a father, you can obtain parental responsibility by officially acknowledging your child.

Subsequently, both you and the child’s mother can request joint parental responsibility to be registered in the parental responsibility database.

This also applies if you have a cohabitation agreement (samenlevingscontract) with the child’s mother.

How Is Parental Responsibility Established?

If the mother is married when the child is born, her spouse is considered the other legal parent.

If the mother is not married when a child is born, the child has no legal father and the biological father has no rights or responsibilities to the child.

To establish parental responsibility for an unwed father, he must first establish his paternity.

Paternity is the legal recognition of a man as the biological father of a child.

There are different ways to establish paternity, depending on where you live. Some of them are:

  • Jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother
  • Signing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form
  • Getting a DNA test
  • Getting a court order

Establishing paternity is important for both the father and the child.

It gives the father legal rights and responsibilities to the child, such as custody, visitation, and child support.

It also gives the child benefits such as inheritance rights, access to medical history, social security benefits, etc.

How Is Parental Responsibility Enforced?

Once parental responsibility is established, both parents have an equal say in how to raise their child.

However, this does not mean that they always agree on everything.

Sometimes, unwed parents may have disputes or conflicts over issues such as:

  • Where the child should live (also known as physical custody)
  • How much time each parent should spend with the child (also known as visitation or parenting time)
  • How much money each parent should contribute to the child’s expenses (also known as child support)
  • How to make major decisions about the child’s education, health care, religion, etc. (also known as legal custody)

If unwed parents cannot resolve these issues on their own, they may need to seek legal help. There are different ways to resolve parental disputes, such as:

  • Negotiation: This is when both parents try to reach an agreement by talking to each other directly or through lawyers.
  • Mediation: This is when both parents meet with a neutral third party (a mediator) who helps them communicate and find common ground.
  • Arbitration: This is when both parents agree to let a neutral third party (an arbitrator) make a binding decision for them.
  • Litigation: This is when both parents go to court and let a judge make a decision for them.

The best way to resolve parental disputes depends on many factors, such as the nature and complexity of the issue, the relationship between the parents, the best interests of the child, etc.

In general, it is better to avoid going to court if possible, as it can be costly, time-consuming, stressful, and unpredictable.

Cohabitation agreement and joint parental responsibility

In cases where the child’s mother and father have a cohabitation agreement, it doesn’t automatically grant parental responsibility to the father.

As the father, you can seek joint responsibility by applying to the district court.

Initially, you must formally acknowledge the child.

There are additional requirements for parental responsibility.

For instance, the request for responsibility must be jointly submitted with the mother.

Are Both Parents Required To Pay Child Support?

Even if not married, both parents have an obligation to provide financial support for their children.

The court assesses the financial contributions of each parent based on their incomes and responsibilities, taking into account the child’s needs.

This evaluation helps determine if one parent should make child support payments.

In cases where the paying parent faces financial difficulties, such as job loss, the court may re-evaluate support based on the changed circumstances.

Typically, if a child primarily resides with one parent, the other parent is usually required to make child support payments.

If you believe you’re entitled to child support from the other parent, you can pursue legal avenues to seek a court order for their financial contribution.


Being an unwed parent can be challenging, but it does not mean that you have to give up your rights or responsibilities to your child.

By establishing and enforcing parental responsibility, you can ensure that your child receives the love, care, and support they deserve.

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