Unmarried Parents – Family Court

Tanya Helfand of Schenck Price handles all aspects of family disputes. In addition to divorce and related matters, we also handle cases when the parties are not married or if they are married and they do not want a divorce. The Family Court has jurisdiction over cases in which the parties are not getting a divorce but have family issues.

A married couple can also file a non-dissolution case if they are separating, but not getting divorced. This sometimes occurs when parties separate, but want to keep spousal medical coverage, or for any other reason that they do not want a divorce.

There are specific forms which the Court requires in such cases. Although the parties may not be married, issues as to child support, custody and parenting time arise which require Court intervention and legal advice.


When the parents are not are not married, a preliminary question will be whether the father acknowledges parentage. If not, the Court will order genetic testing before any orders are granted for support or custody. If the Defendant, however, has held himself out as the father of a child for a time period or under circumstances in which a determination of parentage may hurt the child, the Court may deny genetic testing. A man is presumed the biological father of a child if he and the biological mother were married or attempted to marry after the child’s birth and he acknowledged paternity of the child in writing, sought to have his name placed on the child’s birth certificate, openly holds out the child as his natural child or is obligated to support the child under a written voluntary agreement or Court Order.

Generally, a proceeding brought by a presumed father, the mother, or another individual to adjudicate the parentage of a child having a presumed father must be commenced not later than two years after the birth of the child.

A proceeding seeking to disprove the father-child relationship between a child and the child’s presumed father may be maintained at any time if the Court determines that:

  1. The presumed father and the mother of the child neither cohabited nor engaged in sexual intercourse with each other during the probable time of conception; and
  2. The presumed father never openly held out the child as his own.

In non-dissolution cases, the issues of child support can be heard by a hearing officer. The necessity to have accurate information to present a case for child support, such as tax returns, paystubs, employment statistics where someone may be underemployed, is just as important in non-dissolution cases as in a divorce.

Going pro se or without a lawyer may save you money initially, but a lawyer will have the details, evidence and skill in Court to ensure that the case is presented correctly. Decisions made by the Court are difficult to change. It is wise to make sure the Court has the full correct information.

If there are custody or parenting time disputes, the Court will initially provide custody mediation. This helps the clients to arrive at a parenting plan which is fair and geared toward the best interest of the child.


Can a step-parent be ordered to pay child support for his/her step-children? It is unusual for a step-parent to be ordered to pay child support for step-children. If the step-parent interfered with the natural parent’s relationship with the child to the detriment of the child’s emotional and financial status, the step-parent may be ordered to pay child support, but it is quite rare.

In most cases where a step-parent has acted as a parent to a child, but then divorces or leaves, the Court will not order payment of child support. Emotional bonding is not enough to require the Courts to order support from a step-parent. Once a natural parent has been identified and been ordered to pay support and establishes a relationship with the minor support cannot be compelled from a step-father.

The parent must show that she has sought support from the natural parent.

As with all issues in Family Court, presentation of the facts and proofs are very important. Tanya Helfand has experience in Family Court representing clients who are unmarried or do not seek divorce as well as those who require counsel for a divorce.