Most everyone knows that custody proceedings typically occur when a couple with children divorces. However, fewer people realize that you don’t have to be married in the first place to have custody rights.

Even if the other parent has been the one who has had custody so far, you have the right to ask the courts to give you either visitation rights or shared custody. Your relationship to the child, not to the other parent, is what will matter in the eyes of the courts.

How do you prove your relationship with the child?

There is usually a presumption of paternity when a married woman gives birth to a child. The same presumption does not exist when an unmarried couple has a child. The mother will have to acknowledge the father in order for him to be on the birth certificate.

However, provided that both parents agree about paternity, they can potentially fill out the necessary paperwork to voluntarily acknowledge paternity at any point while the child is still a minor. If the mother doesn’t cooperate, a father may need to request that the courts order genetic testing to prove that he has a connection to the child.

Being an active parent benefits both you and your child

There’s no question that asking for shared custody can be difficult and possibly contentious, especially if your ex isn’t enthusiastic about seeing you frequently. However, the stress involved in asking for custody or visitation is minuscule compared to the enormous benefits of being present in your child’s life for both you and them.