If your partner is willing to remain involved, one of you may choose to assume most day to day responsibilities of raising the child, while the other parent may offer financial support and visit on certain days. Often one single parent has sole legal custody, meaning that this parent has unilateral authority in making important decisions about the child. Some unmarried parents choose to reach an informal agreement about parenting time, decision making, and support. Other parents prefer to formalize their agreement through the Probate and Family Court or choose to seek assistance from the Court if they disagree about these issues.
If your partner does not remain involved, you may be decide to assume all responsibilities of raising the child, potentially with the help of other family and friends. In this case, you would have sole legal custody (you make all the decisions involved in the child’s life) and sole physical custody (the child lives with you). You may also consider requesting assistance in obtaining child support through the Department of Human Services or by filing a case with the Probate and Family Court yourself.
Getting married is an option for some couples in an unplanned pregnancy. If you and your partner have been in a serious committed relationship for a while, and have talked about marriage, then this may be an option for you. While many do not want to choose marriage solely for the sake of the baby, it may be something to consider if you and your partner care about each other and desire to stay together long term. We recommend meeting with a premarital counselor, or one of our counselors, before taking this step.
Joint parenting is an option if both parents are committed to raising the child, they are able to communicate and cooperate well, and marriage is not the right choice. Joint parenting can include shared legal custody (with the child primarily living with one parent) or both shared legal custody and shared physical custody. When parents share physical custody, the child spends approximately equal time with each parent, usually on a week-to-week, two-week, or seasonal schedule. When parents share legal custody, they make important decisions about the child together.