Shared custody for unmarried parents was once an uncommon occurrence. For unmarried couples with children, the mother almost always assumed custody of the children. Thankfully, social attitudes have changed in recent years.

More people than ever before decide to have children with someone without the additional complication of marriage. If that relationship ends, you may end up feeling like you are losing not just your partner but also your child. Thankfully, that does not mean to be the case. You have rights as a parent, and your child will typically also benefit from an ongoing relationship with both parents.

Unmarried parents have rights in Connecticut

Regardless of your marital status, you have the right to maintain a relationship with your child in Connecticut. State law allocates both parental rights and responsibilities to fathers and mothers, regardless of whether they ever married. Parental rights include the right to spend time with your child. Responsibilities include the need to provide financial support.

You have the right to seek shared custody or visitation with your children, even if you aren’t on good terms with the other parent. If you can’t arrange visitation amicably, you may need to go to court. It’s important to understand that you will also incur parental responsibilities when you seek parental rights. Child support obligations often come with the right to visitation or shared custody.

Be ready to establish a genetic link to the child

Ideally, if you aren’t married to the other parent, you are still listed on the birth certificate for your child. Barring that, you and the other parent may have completed state forms acknowledging both of you as parents. The voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity requires that both parents sign, and also generally requires that the mother reasonably believes you are the father of the child.

If the other parent has not acknowledged you and refuses to work with you, you may need to take additional steps. Thankfully, Connecticut does protect the rights of parents even if they are not named on the birth certificate. You may need to request genetic testing to prove that you are biologically related to the child.

If the other parent does not agree to this testing, you may need to ask the courts to step in and order a DNA test. DNA tests are usually accurate within one hundredth of a percent. In other words, a positive DNA test will suffice as evidence to the courts of your relationship with the child. Once you have those test results, you can seek shared custody, sole custody or visitation with your children. You will also likely need to pay child support, unless you share custody and parental responsibilities equally.