The laws of most states provide an unmarried mother with the primary right to child custody that can only be taken away if the mother has abandoned the child or has been determined to be an unfit parent, according to Legalmatch and Legalstreet. An unmarried mother generally has more rights than an unmarried father, who is only recognized as a legal parent to a child if he is named on the birth certificate or has successfully petitioned for custodial rights.
An unmarried mother, as the presumed legal parent of a child born out of wedlock, has the right to direct her child's education, medical care, and visitation with relatives and other individuals, explains Legalstreet. Unmarried mothers have the right to seek child support from unmarried fathers after taking legal action to determine paternity through DNA testing, notes Attorneys.com.
The rights of unmarried mothers are generally superior to those of unmarried fathers, who often are not awarded primary custody of children in custody disputes with unmarried mothers and can usually only secure limited visitation, according to Legalmatch. Even after establishing paternity, unmarried fathers are not automatically granted visitation rights and must demonstrate that they have been active participants in their children's lives, states Legalstreet.