Parenting for Unmarried Couples

Times are changing! Earlier people were married first and then had kids. Nowadays, people live together without marriage and have kids. Live-in relationships have become common in India. Are you in a live in relationship? Don’t worry. It is legal in India to live together without a marriage. Yet, unmarried couples have to ensure that they have the legal status of a married couple. That is very important when it comes to children. You can find here the answers to the basic questions that pop in your head.

When will an unmarried couple presumed to be husband and wife by law?

A man and a woman must together for a long period like a “husband and wife”. Only then their relationship is in the nature of marriage. The couple have to share a household. It is not a ‘walk-in, walk-out’ relationship. One-night stands, simply spending weekends are not live-in relationships.

They must be of legal age to marry and meet the conditions to enter into a marriage. The society should also recognize the couple as a married one. Children born to the unmarried couple are legitimate children. The woman is eligible to inherit the property after the death of her partner. The children are also eligible for the parent’s inheritance, but only for the parent’s earned property. They cannot claim the ancestral property as a matter of right.

Related: Get a Room! Are Unmarried Couples Allowed to?

What steps must unmarried parents take to ensure that they are both considered the legal parents of their child?

The unmarried couple can have a court marriage, or get recognition from a court as a married couple. Either way, they will need their marriage certificate. Only then, the birth certificate of the child can contain the parent’s name.

When an unmarried couple has a child, whose last name does the child take?

Usually, a child born to a married couple takes the father’s name as the last name. The same is the situation for unmarried couples. But, it is always a decision of the couple. No law forces anybody on choosing last names for the child. Even hyphenated last names are acceptable.

Related: Court Marriage Procedure in India

Can an unmarried couple adopt a child together?

So far, only married couples can adopt a child together in India. This is because a married couple has a stable relationship. They cannot split easily. Whereas, the same cannot be said for unmarried couples. They may break up anytime. If the unmarried couple has been together for many years, they can show the proof and claim for an adoption. The couple can also seek a legal recognition as a married couple from the court and then approach for adoption.

Can both unmarried parents claim their child on their separate tax returns?

No. Only one unmarried parent can claim their child on the tax returns.

If a parent partners with someone who isn’t the child’s other parent, can the new partner adopt the child?

No. Normal unmarried adoption is itself uncertain in India. In this scenario, a second parent adoption is not possible.

Related: An Intro to Adoption of Children in India

Can a person who isn’t a parent, but who plays a live in parental role, take care of tasks like signing school permission slips or making medical decisions for a child?

They can if they are legal guardians of the child. That also is possible only when the parents are not available and if the situation is an emergent one.

When unmarried parents separate, how does the breakup affect parenting rights and responsibilities?

In India, by law, the father is the first natural guardian to a child. So after the breakup, the parenting rights may primarily go to the father if the couple approaches a court. The father may also get the custody of the child.

If the couple do not take the legal route, they can divide the rights and responsibilities among themselves. In that case, getting it on paper is safe.

If you are in a live-in relationship as an unmarried couple and wish to have a child, it is better to seek legal recognition from a court as a married couple. That way, your child can grow up without any difficulties. Consult a lawyer to get a court order for the same.

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