Who has custody of a child when the parents are not married in Pennsylvania?

There’s an increase in the number of children born to unmarried couples in the United States. According to Face The Facts USA, 40% of all children born in 2019, were born to unwed couples. If you’re a single parent or about to be one, you may wonder about your legal parental rights towards your child. Does it differ from that of married couples?

In Pennsylvania custody law, single and unwed parents have similar rights as married and divorced parents. However, the steps towards obtaining and establishing these rights differ for unwed parents.

How Custody Rights Differ for Unmarried Parents

The state of Pennsylvania assumes that any child born to a married couple is the husband’s child. It’s called presumption of paternity. The husband doesn’t need to prove that he’s the father, as his name automatically goes into the birth certificate.

For unmarried couples, there’s no such thing as presumption of paternity. While the birth mother is assumed to be the child’s mother, there’s no assumption of the father’s identity. He’ll have to prove paternity before gaining those rights. Otherwise, the mother automatically gets sole custody of the child.

Obtaining Paternity Rights

The most common way for an unwed father to prove paternity is to list his name on the child’s birth certificate. The father will have to do so at the hospital when the child is born. Both parents must sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity (VAP) form in the presence of a witness.

The VAP form is usually available at the hospital, birthing center, or the Pennsylvania Department of public welfare. Sometimes both parents may not be on good terms when the child is born. If the father won’t voluntarily acknowledge paternity, the mother has a right to petition a court for DNA testing.

If it’s the mother that refuses to let the father sign the VAP form, he can file a petition to establish paternity. In either case, the court will order genetic testing to prove paternity. As it has become a legal issue, both parents will need the services of child custody lawyers in Media PA.

Establishing Your Rights

You can establish your rights as a father once you’ve proved paternity. If you and the child’s mother can’t agree on custody and visitation rights, you’ll both go before a family judge. You might need to hire one of the best custody lawyers in West Chester, PA, to represent your case.

There’s also the issue of claiming the child as a dependent on taxes. Both parents must decide who will claim the child on taxes, as only one unwed parent can do so.


Obtaining custody rights differ when there is no marital relationship. The state of Pennsylvania will not assume anyone to be the father of a child born outside wedlock. Irrespective of how committed a relationship is, a single father will have to prove paternity to establish his rights.

If both parents can’t agree on the child’s welfare, they’ll need the help of custody lawyers in West Chester, PA. These legal experts can help you navigate your way through the complex process of child custody.

Can you file for child support after a child is 18?

Child support laws require one parent to make monthly payments to the parent with primary custody, to cover the cost of raising the child. While parents have to support their children, they only have to do so until the child gets to the age of maturity. This age of maturity differs by state.

In Pennsylvania, all parents are to support their children till they’re 18 or till they graduate from high school, whichever comes first. Generally, a parent has no obligation to pay for a child’s college fees or take care of the child at adulthood. Although this law is straightforward, child support lawyers in Media PA, will inform you that there’re a few exceptions.

The Exceptions to the Rule

Early Termination Due to Emancipation

Through a court order, a child may file for emancipation before graduating high school or attaining age 18. In some cases, the child leaves home, joins the military, or gets married and is capable of supporting himself. The parent paying child support can terminate the payments early as they’re under no legal duty to support the child.

Voluntary Payment

During the divorce process, some parents voluntarily sign a written statement, agreeing to support the child after they turn 18. This voluntary support is usually to cover the cost of college fees. If you sign such an agreement, it becomes legally enforceable.

If you fail to make such payments, the other parent can take you to court, and a judge will order you to make the payment. One reason to hire child support lawyers in Media PA, is to avoid signing an agreement you end up regretting.

Exceptions for Disabled Children

Mental or physical disability can prevent a child from being independent, and Pennsylvania law considers that. According to the law, child support payments extend beyond 18 years and high school for disabled or special needs children.

In some cases, the payment may count as income for the child, making him/her ineligible for government disability benefits. As a parent, you might need to discuss with your lawyer to know your options.

Ending Child Support Payments

Even with a specified termination date, the deduction of child support payments may not end automatically. Courts have several cases they handle and won’t be able to track when a child attains maturity.

If you’re the parent paying child support, it’s up to you to file for termination. Otherwise, you might overpay beyond the termination date. You’ll need to request for modification of support order, some months before your child graduates or turns 18.

If you have two or more children, you’ll go through this process for each child. You might need help from child support lawyers in Media, PA, to help you file this petition in your county.


Both parents have a responsibility to provide for their children till they’re grown. However, child support payment is one area of contention during divorces. If you live in Pennsylvania, you’re under obligation to pay or receive child support until a certain period. It would help if you understood the laws behind such payments.

What Should I Know Before Filing For Divorce?

Getting divorced is not as simple as it sounds. It is an emotional process that can get complicated and take longer than expected to complete. There’s more to the divorce process than merely signing papers and sending them to a court. The entire process starts from the moment you decide that the only step to take concerning your marriage is getting divorced from your spouse. After making that decision, there are several things you should know about the process before actually filing for divorce. Some of these things to know involve making difficult decisions, and it is best to know them before time. Let’s get to it.

Judge with gavel on the table

1.   Get a Good Attorney

The first step in the divorce process is getting a divorce attorney. Don’t just go for any lawyer, but make sure your preferred lawyer is an expert in handling divorce cases. For your divorce to go smoothly, you need a lawyer that understands your reasons for filing and matches your style. It’s advisable to get counsel from different attorneys. However, if you’re affiliated to Chester County, best to get a divorce lawyer Chester County PA to manage your case.

2.   Get Copies of All Your Financial Documents

Documentation is quite vital in divorce cases. Make sure you get copies of your financial records, marriage certificate, and pre-nuptial agreement (if there was any), house and car mortgages or receipts, and all other legal documents that may be relevant. Also, if you have shared accounts with your spouse, you should get records of those too. Compile a list of your debts and assets, including jointly owned properties, credit cards, and even retirement accounts. Consulting with a good Chester County divorce lawyer will help you know all the essential documents you should have.

3.   Buy All Your Necessary Needs

In most cases, judges place restrictions on buying, selling, or getting rid of properties while the divorce cases are still in court. So if you have a pending sale or purchase, it’s advisable to complete it before filing. Be careful not to drain out your accounts as doing that can backfire later.

You should also consult with your lawyer on how to handle joint credit cards and accounts. Your attorney will tell you whether you should close the account, split it in half with your spouse or leave it the same.

4.   Decide on Where You’ll Stay

Before filing for divorce, ask yourself these questions:

  • Will you continue living with your spouse as the divorce proceeds?
  • Do you have plans to get a new apartment or stay with someone?
  • Would you prefer your spouse to move out?

Make sure you have plans on what your living condition would be during the divorce. If you are confused about what to do, you can talk to a Chester County divorce lawyer on handling your living conditions.

Also, try as much as possible not to date someone else before or while the divorce process is on. As long as you are still legally married, a romantic relationship with someone else is considered adultery.

Lastly, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Getting divorced is an emotional process, and you should surround yourself with people you consider your support system.

Unique Ways Family Lawyers Can Represent You

Family law is a branch of law that deals with issues relating to family matters and relationships such as marital agreements, divorce, adoption, surrogate parenting custody issues, domestic partnership, amongst others.

Family lawyers are legal representatives who specialize in family law. It’s always best to hire experienced local and professional family lawyers to ensure smooth and efficient handling of your case.

Most people are unaware of the crucial roles family lawyers play. Hence, we’ve put this piece together to inform you about five unique ways family lawyers can represent you.

Marital Agreements

Although marriage is a beautiful thing, get proactive by consulting a family lawyer before the wedding. Also, during your marriage, you can always consult with your family lawyer on issues that bother you. If it’s beyond their capacity to help, they’ll always refer you to the right professional. Moreover, family lawyers help with drafting documents such as prenuptial, postnuptial, and separation agreements.

Prenuptial Agreements

Couples should sign prenuptial agreements. It is a document that dictates wealth sharing if a divorce or break-up occurs. A family law West Chester PA helps you protect your assets and fully ensures you’re protected if the marriage fails.

Postnuptial Agreements

If you’re already married, and you desire to protect your assets, a family lawyer can draft a postnuptial agreement for you before you dissolve your marriage.

Separation Agreement

Couples may decide to take a break from their marriage without necessarily divorcing. It’s advisable to have a separation agreement in place to avoid conflicts. Having a separation agreement that spells out the duties of each partner as regards, assets, expenses, income, automobile payments, household payments, and more keeps each partner in check and responsible. The primary purpose of a separation agreement in Pennsylvania, PA, is to adequately split assets or debts that you and your partner have accrued during your marriage.

Marital contracts serve to protect you and your assets if an unfortunate situation crops up, and having a family lawyer represent you is highly crucial. Consult family lawyers in Media, PA, anytime for your correctly drafted marital agreements.


Divorce “can” be a horrid experience. It can be draining emotionally, physically, and financially. More so when it results in lawsuits. However, enlisting the services of a good family lawyer will cushion the draining effects of the process. A family lawyer will mediate between you and your partner to ensure an amicable settlement. That way, you, your partner, and children (if any) don’t leave feeling cheated out.

Domestic Partnership

A domestic partnership is a legally recognized relationship between two people who aren’t married but living together. It’s a status accorded at the state level. It seems similar to a marriage, but it’s legally different.

Domestic partnerships got introduced to enable partners to enjoy such rights as married couples without getting married.

The laws regarding domestic partnership vary from state to state. It is thus essential to get experienced local family lawyers from Media, PA. They’re more familiar with laws regarding domestic partnerships in Media, PA. They’re also more current on changes to local and state laws concerning domestic unions. Therefore, they’re better able to guide you through all legal processes.


Adopting a child can prove to be quite strenuous. Several factors come into consideration, such as where the child comes from, the adoption regulations in such a state, the type of adoption, and other factors. Also, you’ll need to prove to the state or child welfare services that you’re mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially capable of adopting and taking care of a child.

It also involves lots of legal processes, which might be daunting. Nonetheless, hiring the services of a family lawyer who’s worth their salt will help you make the process easier and faster. They’ll ensure you get custody as a guardian to the child.

Custody Issues

After divorce occurs, the next battle is usually child custody. Each parent wants to exercise their legal right to protect and care for their children even after separation. It’s often a source of conflict and disagreements between parents.

To avoid disputes and disagreements, which can be an emotional burden on the child/children. Hire a competent family lawyer who’ll draft a proper agreement between parents to define each parent’s roles and responsibilities.

Sometimes, it might be disputes caused by relatives such as step-parents or grandparents wanting to gain custody of a child after your divorce, or after a spouse’s death. A family lawyer will ensure you win the rightful custody of your child and make the process easier.


How family lawyers can represent you is quite exhaustive, and you must consult a family lawyer regarding family-related issues you’re unsure about how to handle. Go for competent and experienced family lawyers in Media, PA, for any clarity you seek or for family issues you might have.

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started