Rights of unwed fathers to seek child custody

divorce attorney Jill DuffyQuestion:

My girlfriend and I live together and have a daughter together.

If we were to break up, would I have the right to seek custody of my child even though we are not married?


First, let me preface my answer by stating that I am only licensed to practice law in Michigan. The information in the article is general in nature. You should contact an attorney in your jurisdiction immediately to discuss your options.

The most important thing you can do at this point is to ensure that you have established paternity of your child.

When a child is born during a marriage it is presumed to be the child of the husband. When a child is born out of wedlock, there is no presumption to who is the father.

You can establish your paternity by signing your child’s birth certificate that acknowledges that is your child or by filing a petition with the court to establish paternity.

Read More Information:

How To Establish Paternity

You will not have any rights to custody of your child if you do not establish that you are legally the father. Once paternity is established and you end up involved in a custody battle, then a decision will be based on the best interests of the child standard.

Here is a general list of what the courts use to analyze the best interests of the child:

  • The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child.
  • The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any.
  • The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care.
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
  • The permanence of the existing or proposed home or homes.
  • The moral fitness of the parties involved.
  • The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
  • The home, school, and community record of the child.
  • The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.
  • The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent of the child and parents.
  • Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.
  • Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to the particular family.

You will find the same or similar factors in most states.

Cordell & Cordell:

Paternity Law Attorneys

Jill A. Duffy is an Associate Attorney in the Troy, Mich., office of Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in the state of Michigan. Ms. Duffy received her BA in Psychology and Spanish and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Oakland University. She received her Juris Doctor from Michigan State University College of Law and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

End of Content Icon

One comment on “Rights of unwed fathers to seek child custody

    My gf and I are living together and just had a child together in Wisconsin. I’m the father and I signed the paper work and birth certificate. She has nothing no job no family no money I got everything for are daughter I have supported her since day one she never had a income. Can she get mad at me and take my daughter and leave with her.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *