What are your rights without a child custody order? The short answer is, few and far between. While in an ideal world parents can raise a child together, despite their differences, that is not always the case. Even under the best circumstances, rights and responsibilities should always be clearly outlined in matters pertaining to custody, schedules, and visitation conditions and stipulations. This is done with a child custody order.
Without it, parents are considered active co-parents. In that case, a parent can keep a child away from the other parent, or can cancel/limit visits. The same applies to taking the child out of state – they would be well within their rights, legally. It is only with the child custody order, which states that the court has intervened and said that you can see your child every weekend, or whatever agreed upon terms, that you can take legal action. Only in that case, after the order is legal, can you charge with kidnapping, or seek help in court. Getting the order is absolutely always the first line of action and the first line of defense.
While it used to be that courts immediately sided with the mother, no matter the circumstances, that is becoming less and less true as time progresses. While there is still that unofficial bias, men are granted full custody at far greater numbers than a decade ago. The child custody agreements cement their rights as fathers. The primary deciding factor is what appears to be best for the child in the eyes of the court.
In order to get a child custody order, your name must appear on the birth certificate, or you must have adopted the child. Stepparents cannot file for custody without adoption in place. In those instances, they have no legal rights to see the child in question, and are subject to the decision of the birth/adopted parent in matters relating to the child.
(Articles on this blog are provided for informational purposes only. Use of this blog does not provide or replace individualized legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice, please speak with one of our attorneys, who can offer legal advice specific to your circumstances.)