Whether you’re a new parent or you have been co-parenting without a custody order for years, there are lots of benefits that come with establishing a custody agreement. While verbal agreements do work for some parents, they largely rely on the goodwill of both parents. If one parent changes their mind about the agreement, the other could be left in the lurch. To protect your rights and your relationship with your child, consider a formal custody order.
Not sure how to establish and protect your rights as a parent? We’re here to help. Call Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short at 334-821-3892 to set up a time to talk.
Establishing Paternal Rights
In Alabama, an unmarried mother has automatic custody of children when she gives birth. If she is in a good place with the father of her child at the time, an unspoken parenting agreement may suffice. But what happens if the relationship falls apart? In that case, the father of the child has no rights until he goes through the proper legal channels. This means that his access to his child is dependent on the mother’s wishes and goodwill.
If the relationship is contentious, it’s entirely possible that the mother may use the child as a pawn. Even if you are in a relationship with the other parent of your child, it is worth your time to get legal paternity established. This ensures that you continue to have access to your child should the relationship end.
Protecting Access to Your Child
Without a custody order, it can be very difficult to force the other parent to allow you time with them. Consider this scenario: an unmarried couple has a child and stays together for a few years. They split amicably and coparent reasonably for some time until one parent gets in another relationship.
During their custody time—which is not in any legal document—they pack up and move states. The other parent doesn’t find out until the other parent doesn’t show up for the handover. In this scenario, the parent who’s been left behind will have a much longer road to get their child back. Parents with a legal custody agreement will have an easier time getting their child back, as they already have the terms of their parenting time in black and white. The court simply has to enforce those terms.
Ensuring Financial Support
A child has the right to be financially supported by both parents. Establishing a parenting agreement through the court makes it much easier to get an appropriate child support order created. Otherwise, the lower-earning or primary parent is largely dependent on the co-parent’s whims or good mood.
While some parents prefer a casual child support agreement that allows the custodial parent to ask for assistance when they need it, this often leaves the child in the lurch. A formal child support order provides for the child regardless of the parents’ relationship. Some co-parents don’t ask for a child support order because they’re afraid that doing so will upset the other parent, pushing them to cease all financial support. If that’s the case, the co-parenting relationship is already so fragile that you need the stability of a child support order.
Avoiding Complications with Co-Parenting
Co-parenting is difficult in the best of situations, and a custody agreement that is not legally enforceable is definitely not the best of situations. You may think that you don’t need an order because your co-parenting relationship is good right now.
What happens if you disagree on where the child should spend Christmas or their birthday? What if you want to live with a partner and the other parent objects or threatens to withhold the child? No matter how good a co-parenting relationship is at the moment, it is always just one situation away from becoming a mess that consumes your emotional energy and financial stability. Prepare ahead of time with a custody order.
Choose Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short for Your Custody Case
A lot goes into a legally enforceable custody order. With the team at Haygood, Cleveland, Pierce, Thompson & Short, you can feel confident that we have your and your child’s best interests in mind. Call us at 334-821-3892 or to get started.