Unmarried Parents: Who Gets Custody?

Posted on November 12th, 2019

Parents that decide to separate have made a hard decision that affects both their lives and the children they’ve had together. But deciding who ultimately gets custody and is responsible for them financially is dependent on how well they get along and if they can agree upon a resolution. If not, then it will be up to a judge to decide custody. In the state of Pennsylvania, unmarried parents have the same rights as married parents in a child custody case with a few slight differences. Let’s go over these differences below.

Unmarried vs. Married Parental Rights

When a married couple has children in Pennsylvania, both names are put on the birth certificate and no other action needs to be made. Both mother and father are the legal and biological parents of the children. For unmarried parents, it isn’t so cut and dry and can get a little bit complicated. Paternity is only presumed for the mother and not the father, even if they express that they are in a committed relationship at the time of birth. Both parties must acknowledge voluntarily that they were in a relationship or prove it before a judge in court.

Unmarried Rights of the Mother and Father

Once a child is born in the state of Pennsylvania and the parents are unmarried, the mother’s rights are no different than if she were married. The mother has legal custody of the child no matter if she is married or unmarried in this state. Placing her name on the birth certificate and making important decisions for the well-being of the child is her right. If the father does not voluntarily admit paternity, then you can request a genetic DNA test from the court to establish parentage and pursue child support. 

After parentage is established, the father has every right to pursue custody of the child, whether it be voluntarily on the birth certificate or after the DNA test, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. You as the father can now seek custody and child support from the mother.

If either parent is making it difficult to have a relationship or visit with your child, then legal action should be taken to seek visitation and the support you deserve. Of course, if the father and mother are amicable and can work out both a child custody and child support plan themselves, it would save valuable time and money. We recommend formalizing the arrangement with an experienced child custody attorney by contacting Kalinoski Law now! 

Share this Post
Craig Kalinoski
Craig Kalinoski

Craig P. Kalinoski is a respected attorney serving clients in Scranton, Pennsylvania. With a focus on Family Law, Criminal Defense, and Civil Rights, he has established himself as a top-rated legal professional. Recognized as a Rising Star and admired by peers, Craig's commitment to excellence sets him apart in the legal field.


We fight for the rights of our clients in a wide spectrum of practice areas, ranging from criminal defense to family law and personal injury.

Back to Top