About Child Custody for Unmarried Mothers in California
You have just experienced one of your life’s joyous occasions—the birth of your bundle of joy. At the same time, you’re experiencing one of life’s greatest nightmares—a custody squabble with the child’s father, as you are not currently married to him. The question is, what are unmarried mothers’ custody rights in California? And does the father of your child have any rights, too, according to child custody laws in California? Here’s an overview of everything you need to know about your custody rights as a single mother in California.
Unmarried Mothers’ Rights in California: Is California a “Mother State”?Decades ago, women in California and other states predominantly served as their families’ primary caretakers, and therefore, they mostly received custody of their children. However, today, most states’ custody laws generally don’t favor either mothers or fathers, so there is no such thing as a “mother state” or a “father state.” With that being said, California custody laws for unmarried parents in particular do favor mothers. Based on California Family Code 7610, which covers unmarried mothers’ rights in California, unwed mothers automatically gain full custody of their children upon birth. Unmarried mothers do not have to take any legal action to assert their custodial rights. This means that their children can live with them (physical custody), and they maintain sole responsibility for meeting their children’s needs. These mothers can also make all decisions concerning their children’s education, living arrangements, and health care (legal custody). The reason for this is that if you’re an unwed woman and you give birth to a child, paternity must legally be established before the child is considered to have a father in the eyes of the law. Until paternity has been established with the court, the father of your child has no custody rights and therefore no responsibilities to the child. As a result, you cannot demand any child support, and likewise, the father cannot demand child visitation or custody. This is true even if the father has his name on your baby’s birth certificate.
Unmarried Mothers’ Full Custody Rights in CaliforniaUnmarried mothers’ rights in California are numerous and include the following according to child custody laws in California:
- Right to determine where a child will live
- Right to choose a pediatrician
- Right to have the child see a doctor or go to the hospital
- Right to determine who will watch the child
- Right to have the child enrolled in school or daycare
- Right to get public benefits to cover the child’s needs
- The father has engaged in domestic violence.
- The father has made phony abuse allegations against you.
- The father emotionally abuses your child.
- The father is a flight risk because of the allegations you plan to make against him.
- The father has abused your child.
- The father has a problem with substance abuse.
- The father does not possess the necessary skills for caring for your child.