Redlands Family Law Lawyers For Unmarried Couples
It’s becoming more common for couples to wait until later in life to marry. Many couples follow this path to forego the legal complications that come with marriage before they are ready to commit, such as a potential divorce. However, many life events can take place that may lead to legal complications anyway. For instance, the couple could open a business together, purchase a home together or start a family.
Unmarried couples face many challenges when they have family law issues to resolve. They do not have the same rights as married couples so they need an experienced lawyer to ensure that they receive protection under the law.
The attorneys at Bowler and Bowler have experience representing unmarried couples and parents in California. Attorney E. Toby Bowler has more than 45 years of experience and is certified as a family law specialist by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. He can assist you with issues such as property rights, support and custody.
Assisting With Domestic Partnership Issues
A couple who does not want to marry can get a registered domestic partnership. If it is a heterosexual couple, at least one of the parties must be over 62 years old. You can get a dissolution of domestic partnership if the relationship ends. This is similar to a divorce because it addresses property division, spousal/partner support and custody according to the terms of the partnership agreement.
Unmarried couples without a registered domestic partnership who have lived together for a significant period of time may still have rights to property and support. Sometimes referred to as Marvin claims, these types of cohabitants can seek support called palimony as well as property rights.
The Paternity Determination Process
Unmarried parents may need to establish paternity to give rights to both parties. A paternity action can be filed by the mother or the alleged father. If you have been wrongly named as the father, you can file a paternity suit to disprove paternity.
Unmarried fathers who wish to establish rights to their child must first be legally recognized by the court as the father. A father’s rights to child custody and visitation cannot begin until paternity is legally established.
Paternity provides the child with access to child support, health insurance and additional benefits from the father. If the father refuses to pay child support, the mother can file a paternity action to make child support payments a legal obligation of the father.
Establishing Parentage in California
Paternity, child support and child custody are among the most contentious issues faced by unmarried couples. Some mothers may use the opportunity to exclude the father from the family because California does not award parental rights without established parentage. Similarly, fathers may take advantage of the situation to avoid paying for child support or caring for the child at all. There are also amicable situations where both parties simply want to ensure they have parental rights. Here are some ways to accomplish this in Redlands, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Inland Empire communities.
If possible, parents can seek a paternity test to prove a biological connection to the child. This can also prove useful in certain same-sex families. Some couples involving two biological women allowed one to play the role of the child-bearer and the other to provide the egg. This allows both women to become involved in the process and have direct ties to the child. In these instances, the woman who donated the egg can prove a biological connection.
If both parties are in agreement, the process becomes even easier. Both parents can sign a form called a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. The form confirms the parentage of the child and includes the signature of both parents. Couples have the opportunity to sign this as early as the birth of the child, but they may also sign one later. If the parents already received a birth certificate, they can seek an amendment for a fee, so that the new document includes the names of both parents.
California Court Hearing
Unfortunately, there are instances where the other parent’s only tie to the child is the relationship. The custodial parent may refuse to sign a voluntary declaration and the child may not have biological ties to the non-custodial parent. When this happens, the noncustodial parent can make a case in court to show why he or she should be considered a parent. This may include proving that a man has played the role of a father in the child’s life for several years while cohabiting with the mother, even though the individual was not the biological parent.
Identifying the Benefits of Establishing Parentage
If you currently live with your partner and foresee an extended or lifelong relationship, you may feel there is no rush to establish parentage. Even when this is the case, taking the necessary steps to ensure a legal connection can provide benefits for your children that they may not otherwise have:
- Child Support: In the event that the relationship ends, the child gains the legal right to child support to reduce the likelihood of suffering financially from the separation. Local child support agencies in Redlands can then get involved on the child’s behalf to ensure payment. This also helps to reduce the financial pressure on the custodial parent.
- Child Custody: Most people think of parentage as important during custody battles with the other parent, but there are other pressing instances when establishing parentage becomes crucial. For instance, if the custodial parent passes away and there are no other suitable guardians, it can become difficult for the other parent to gain custody.
- Parenting Decisions: There are some decisions only parents or other legal guardians can make for their children. These include decisions related to health, education and even religion. Parents who wish to have some say in how their children are raised or cared for do need to establish parentage to gain this right. An experienced family lawyer can help.
- Health Benefits: Parentage allows children to share in work benefits that are crucial to a healthy upbringing. For instance, if the mother is self-employed or a stay-at-home mom and the father has a standard nine-to-five, he may be in a better position to provide health insurance, dental insurance and other benefits.
- Inheritance: One of the main reasons people have children is to ensure they pass the torch to the next generation. This becomes difficult if there is no legal connection between the deceased person and the heirs. If there is no will, the risk of being disinherited increases tenfold for children whose fathers or nonbiological parents have no established legal parentage.