If unmarried parents have children (whether or not they are living together), parenting, and support of the children can raise important and complicated issues. An experienced family mediator can help you come to decisions about the practical considerations of raising children out-of-wedlock without resorting to litigation.
Mediation for unmarried parents can assist with decisions regarding:
- Child Support
- Parenting Plan
- Establishng Paternity
Each of these is discussed in more depth below:
A non-residential parent will typically be responsible for child support. In determining child support for unmarried parents, the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines apply. In fact, the Guidelines apply equally to determine child support for unmarried couples as they do for married parents. A family mediator can help an unmarried couple come to terms on the child support obligation that best serves them.
Child custody and parentng plans for unmarried parents is an important issue. Unmarried parents (except in extreme situations) have the right to maintain a relationship with their children through parenting time. While the presumption is that the mother has legal custody (decision making authority) when the child is not born of a marriage, the parties can themselves agree to joint legal custody. The parties can also agree to a parenting arrangement for parenting time that best serves their and the child’s needs and values. Having this conversation between unmarried couples facilitated by a trained family mediator is a great step in maintaining good will and open communication between parents, which will greatly benefit their children.
For more information about parenting plans, see the Model Parenting Plans released by the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court Department.
Establishing paternitycan be done through a court action, which formalizes a father’s relationship to a child born out of wedlock. A father and mother may establish paternity by agreement by acknowledging the father’s parentage in a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage, to be registered in court.
A family mediator can be an excellent neutral facilitator of the discussion between the two parents, and can help them formulate an agreement that well serves their child and reduces future conflict.