What are the North Carolina Child Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents?

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What are the North Carolina Child Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents?


What are the North Carolina Child Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents?

Our Charlotte child custody attorneys at Waple & Houk know that family dynamics have changed significantly over the past several decades, including that not all North Carolina couples believe marriage is necessary to start a family and provide a stable and happy home for their children.

While this is true, we also know that custody arrangements can become increasingly difficult when parents are not married and decide to go their separate ways.

Our Mecklenburg County family law attorneys believe parents have the right to be involved in their children’s lives and are here to help them navigate the legal process, so they can get back to sharing the connection they had with their kids before the relationship with the other parent ended.

The Presumption of Parentage for Child Custody Purposes in North Carolina?

When children are born to married parents in North Carolina, they are legally presumed to be the parents of a child born during the marriage. This is true for whether the marriage involves an opposite-sex or same-sex couple.

When unmarried parents have children, the partners are deemed parents when their names appear on the child’s birth certificate or if the couple has signed an Affidavit of Parentage.

When an unmarried couple is in a same-sex relationship, it is highly recommended that the nonbiological parent either adopt the child or file for court intervention to ensure their custody rights remain intact should the relationship dissolve.

How Can Unmarried Parents Establish Parentage in North Carolina?

North Carolina parents still have rights, whether they are married or not. However, they must establish parentage before claiming child custody or visitation rights.

When the unmarried couple is in an opposite-sex relationship, North Carolina Law states that the birth mother has all custodial rights until paternity can be established. This can occur after the child is born through a civil action any time before the child turns 18. The father must file a formal motion, asking a North Carolina judge to determine parentage, which ultimately hinges on the result of a DNA test. When the test confirms his paternity, the father may pursue his rights to the children.

When the unmarried couple is in a same-sex relationship, LGBTQ+ couples may consider executing a co-parenting agreement that outlines both legal and physical custody arrangements that include — at the very least:

  • Sole, joint, or primary custody decisions.
  • Weekly / monthly visitation schedules.
  • Child support.
  • Insurance premiums / coverage costs.
  • Education.
  • Medical treatment.
  • Religion and religious practices.

When co-parents can agree to raise the child together, sharing the child’s obligations, needs, and legal responsibilities and duties as a parent, our family law attorney can outline the complete details and ensure they align with North Carolina’s laws, so it can become a certified legal document.

If a nonbiological parent’s rights are challenged, the North Carolina Family Courts will look for intent between the biological and nonbiological parents to raise the child jointly. This may require private negotiations between each parent’s family law attorneys, mediation, or litigation.

Contact Our Experienced Family Law Attorneys in Charlotte, North Carolina Today

No matter what type of relationship you are in, if you need help establishing parentage, or enforcing your child custody rights in North Carolina, contact our skilled family law attorneys in Charlotte today by phone or schedule a consultation online to learn more about how we can help you pursue the best outcome for your unique circumstances.

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