Unmarried couples with children face a unique set of challenges during a separation. Each parent may have a different idea about future arrangements, and the family may lack the legal protections and assumptions given to married couples.
In addition, unmarried separating couples who have children must often navigate emotional stress and financial concerns. Consider four vital matters.
1. The children’s welfare and upbringing
Parents can create a joint agreement for childrearing, which is optimal. Even when separating partners are on good terms, mediation can be productive because strong emotions can lead to regretful outbursts and expressions. A court must intervene to outline custody arrangements if both parties cannot concur.
2. Division of financial responsibilities
When an unmarried couple splits, no one is eligible for alimony. Massachusetts permits a couple to create a cohabitation agreement that outlines the division of property, though such contracts have limitations. Parents can work together to create a budget or savings account for the children so that money is available for unexpected expenses and no one person carries the bulk of the financial burden.
3. Communication between parents
Parents can set ground rules for discussing issues without fighting. A heated dispute between parents can harm a child, so former partners should learn to model respectful behavior and avoid raising contentious subjects in front of the children.
4. Parentage issues
The law legally presumes the husband in a mixed-sex married couple to be the child’s father. For unmarried couples, there is no presumption of paternity. If a partner did not legally establish parentage at the child’s birth or adoption, the lack of paperwork could raise obstacles to visitation rights.
Unmarried couples with children have options for a fair and amicable split. Both individuals should remember the needs of the children as they create an agreement.