Unmarried couples can have a child together and later break up. Not all breakups are bad. Sometimes, an unmarried couple remains on good terms even if they are no longer together.
If an unmarried couple can agree on a parenting plan on their own, do they really need to go to court for a child custody order?
Why you might want a child custody order
Generally, if parents can develop their own parenting plan, this is seen as a good thing. It means they are willing to cooperate as co-parents. Still, it is important to seek an official child custody order from the court. This is due, in part, to the fact that relationships can change.
When unmarried parents have a child together and later break up, the child’s mother has custody by default. She and the child’s other parent may agree on a parenting plan. But if things fall apart between them, the mother can keep the father from seeing their child.
Without a child custody order granting the child’s father custody or visitation rights, the child’s father has no legally enforceable rights to be with their child.
This is why it is so important for unmarried parents to establish paternity. Doing so does not automatically confer custody or visitation rights. But establishing paternity allows the child’s father to seek custody and visitation rights if he wishes.
So, if a child is born to unmarried parents, the parents will want to establish paternity, so that the child’s father can pursue custody if the relationship ends.
And, even if the parents are on good terms following a breakup, an official child custody order can ensure that both of their custody and visitation rights are preserved if disagreements arise.