child cusotdy unmarried parents

RADIO: How Does Child Custody Work When There’s No Marriage Certificate?

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Ending a marriage is tricky business. It’s a difficult decision to come to, not to mention the laundry list of issues to deal with. But what if you were never actually married? As in, what if there was no marriage certificate?

Sounds bizarre, right? You think you’re married, but you’re not actually for one reason or another. Strange thing is, this happens more often than you might think. But you still have to deal with the fallout.

Our founding partner, Rick Jones, makes regular appearances on the Danny Bonaduce and Sarah Morning Show, where he answers family law questions posed by listeners. One recent caller, Scott, thought he was married for 13 years. As it turns out, no one ever filed the marriage certificate, so now he has questions, specifically about custody of his 10-year-old child. It’s definitely one of the most interesting situations we’ve encountered.

Check out the call below:

Caller: “Hey Rick, this is Scott. What happened basically is that I was with someone for over 13 years. Thought I was married. There’s a 10-year-old child involved. But when things got difficult, the arguments didn’t go into the bedroom and were in front of the children, we went to find out that there wasn’t any marriage license filed. Basically, the application for the marriage license was got, but nothing was filed after we went in front of the judge.”

Danny: “Well you may win the most interesting setup, but what is your actual question for Rick Jones?”

Caller: “Well, now there’s a 10-year-old child involved, and now that there’s no marriage license to refer to, how do you deal with custody and visitation dealing with the child?

Danny: “Well that is a good question.”

Rick: “I think maybe everybody listening would be surprised to hear how many custody issues are needing to be resolved between people that were not married anyway.”

Danny: “The only reason I’m not surprised is they call here for you.”

Rick: “I would say literally that about 1/3 of the contested custody issues we have did not involve any marriage to begin with. So it’s certainly is something that’s not novel to the court to address. My guess is you probably already appear on the child’s birth certificate. So there’s already that ‘title if you will.

“The key is, no you can’t file for divorce, because that’s not the underlying issue.  But you certainly can file, either a motion to establish a parenting plan – which we always talk about, or there may even be some additional issues that may be favorable to you to address, in the context normally you would think of as a divorce. And if that’s the case, you can do a petition regarding a meretricious relationship, which is a ‘marriage-like’ relationship.

“So that’s your other avenue, but either way, the courtroom door is open.”

Danny: “They don’t care, either way. Custody is going to go the same way as if you were married.

If you have questions about your case or need to talk to a divorce lawyer, contact Goldberg Jones. Our San Diego office is here to help you.

Related Reading: We Never Married, Do I Still Have Parental Rights?
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