You do not have to go through a divorce to know the stress that comes with a separated family. The uncertainty surrounding the future of your child’s life can be enough to cause a significant burden. You may be looking to better understand your rights in your child’s life. Or, perhaps you are concerned about how your New York family court will decide on child custody arrangements. Know that there are legal procedures in place for children with unmarried parents. In fact, you have many of the same rights as a married parent.

The need for establishing paternity

First, paternity may need to be established if you and your former partner have not already done so. Think of paternity as a gateway into the legal procedures surrounding child-related issues in an unmarried split. Paternity will provide the father, for instance, with benefits like custody and visitation. And, in the case of a mother pursuing custody, establishing paternity of the father is a necessary step in child support arrangements.

The child’s best interests

Once the establishment of paternity is official, as they would in the case of a divorce, New York courts attempt to administer child-related issues according to the child’s best interests. As it pertains to child custody and parenting time, they will consider issues like:

  • Emotional support
  • Financial stability
  • The physical and mental well-being of the parents
  • The age of the child
  • Patterns of family violence
  • Any evidence related to addiction to alcohol or drugs
  • The child’s wishes if she or he is old enough to express them

Of course, the court may not know your child or your situation as well as you do. It may benefit you to work with your former partner and attempt to negotiate your child’s arrangements. Consider consulting a family law attorney to better understand your legal options.