Co-Parenting Questions as Never-Married Parents

Not all co-parents must be divorced to share parenting responsibilities.

Determining parenting responsibilities on a legal scale can prove to be a different and more complicated process for never-married parents. In this situation, understanding your rights as a never-married parent is a key step in navigating this process. Consider these questions you may have asked yourself already about co-parenting as a never-married parent.

Are we required to prove parentage to the court?

When a child is born to never-married parents, both mother and father will have parental responsibility if both of their names are listed on the child's birth certificate. If this is not the case, you can instead get a court order that designates your parental responsibility of the child. It's important that you check in with your lawyer about what may be required in your case to prove parentage, particularly if you are a father who is not named on your child's birth certificate. Your lawyer will have a good understanding of laws in the United Kingdom that could impact your family's situation moving forward.

What happens next?

At this point, never-married parents should create a parenting plan. This will lay out a parenting schedule, child maintenance, and other arrangements that concern the child. Never-married parents may have a chance to work out these arrangements on their own or with the help by way of mediation. Parents must demonstrate to the court that they at least attended a meeting to see if mediation is a viable option for them before turning to a court. Only under certain circumstances, parents won't have to attend a mediation meeting first before applying to a court for help in reaching an agreement such as if domestic abuse is a factor.

Never-married parents will make many of the same decisions that married parents make as they go through a divorce. As co-parents, don't miss these key points as you create your parenting plan:

  • Be mindful as you craft your parenting schedule. If you plan to share parenting time, decide on a schedule that favours your child. Many states prefer that both parents spend plenty of time with their child, so try to agree on a parenting time rotation that allows your child to see you and your co-parent on a regular basis. Beyond the everyday schedule, don't forget to talk about events like holidays, birthdays, school breaks, and other special dates. Get your schedule laid out in a shared calendar that you and your co-parent can both access; this helps to ensure that you are both always on the same page. 
  • Come to a decision about child maintenance. Parents can come to their own agreement on child maintenance if they are in agreement, or the court may decide if they reach that point. When considering maintenance, decide when payments should be made and how much they should each be. You may also decide that each parent cover certain expenses on their own, such as clothing or books for school. 
  • Don't forget to decide on a plan for communication between you and your co-parent. From day-to-day matters to big decisions, knowing how you plan to communicate and share important information can cut much of the confusion can get in the way of reaching agreements. If phone calls and text messages just aren't keeping details clear, try a web-based platform built to facilitate co-parenting communication. 

Never-married parents may face certain obstacles that married parents may not, like when determining parentage. Nonetheless, married and never-married parents should have the same goal as they navigate separation: to reach a solid parenting plan that favours their child's well-being and keeps everyone moving forward successfully.


NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.

Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.