Written by Canterbury Law Group

What are Mother’s Rights In Child Custody?

When deciding a mother’s rights in child custody, the court must determine whether the parents of the child were married at the time of birth. Custody rules that apply to unmarried parents are different than those that are married depending on the jurisdiction.

Child custody cases are often complicated, but when the parents have the child or children out of wedlock, gaining parental rights can make the process of establishing child custody even more complicated.

When a couple is unmarried and has a child together, by law, the custody of the child is automatically granted to the mother. However, the biological father has options to pursue custody through the court system.

The biological father of the child can request to the court for custody of the child. As the initial and primary caretaker of the child, the mother initially has the right to make all decisions concerning the child’s welfare, including:

  • Who sees the child and for how long?
  • Where the child lives
  • Where the child goes to school
  • All medical decisions concerning the child
  • Public benefits concerning the child

The right to do anything else a parent with legal custody may decide, such as:

  • Academic Decisions (school district selections)
  • Religious Decisions
  • Personal Care
  • Medical Decisions
  • Any other important details concerning the child’s life.

Nevertheless, with the progression of same-sex rights, there is a growing number of non-traditional families that have custody challenges. In this case, it is plausible that the mother’s rights in child custody will comprise of two female mothers. One mother could be the child’s birth mother, and the other possibly could have donated an egg or just have been a supportive partner and parental figure.

As the emerging law in these cases is not set and clear like it is for heterosexual parents, it is harder to say what is relevant in deciding the custody rights for two mothers. Regardless, essentially the same basic principles will apply, and it may not necessarily affect the rights of the parents in this situation.

How Mother’s Rights Are Determined For A Child Born To Married Parents?

As for children who are born to married parents, many courts in the past went with the mother when awarding child custody.  As gender roles have changed and more women work outside of the home, these past presumptions no longer apply. These days, a lot of custody laws are gender neutral, meaning they won’t favor mothers over fathers.

Because of this, courts must take into consideration the child’s best interests when awarding custody. However, it is no easy matter to determine how to win custody as a mother, but it is good to keep in mind that most courts, even ones in other states, will focus on similar factors when considering the child’s best interests. These factors include:

  • The child’s emotional and physical health
  • How strong the bond of a parent-child relationship is with both parents
  • The stability of both parent’s home environment
  • The child’s ties to his or her school and community
  • The child’s relationships with other members of the family
  • Whether a parent has not paid their child support
  • Each parent’s propensity to provide for the child’s emotional and physical needs
  • Each parent’s devotion to actively parent the child
  • Any proof of any domestic violence or child abuse
  • What the child wants if the child is at a proper age.

In addition, it is important to realize the difference between physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody is defined as the parenting time a parent physically spends with the child. When a parent has physical custody of a child, they are responsible for making basic, day-to-day parenting choices.

But legal custody (Legal Decision Making) involves your right to make important decisions for your child, such as the decisions listed above, including education, health care, and religion. Even though one parent may have primary physical custody, both parents usually share joint legal custody. In fact, in a lot of states, joint legal custody is presumed to be in the best interests of the child.

Can Custody Orders From The Court Be Changed or Modified?

In child custody situations, it is in a parent’s best interest to maintain a polite and cooperative relationship with the child’s other parent, if they are still in the picture. It is vital to remember that any open bitterness toward the child’s other parent may hurt a parent’s custody claim or result in a decrease in a parent’s physical custody time.

Furthermore, once a custody order is finalized, the parent must follow each of the conditions stipulated in the order. However, court-ordered child custody decisions can be changed or modified if there has been a significant change in circumstances since the order was finalized. Courts can modify an existing child custody order when there has been a substantial change in circumstances, such as:

  • A parent breaches the existing child custody orders
  • There is proof of domestic violence or child abuse
  • One parent has moved, making the current child custody order unrealistic
  • One parent has lost the capacity to care for the needs of the child
  • When the child’s needs have changed, and the existing order is no longer in the child’s best interests

In order to change or modify an existing child custody order, the parent must first file a petition with the court. The process to modify an existing child custody order varies from state-to-state, and, thus, you will likely need to seek the assistance of an experienced and well-qualified family law attorney well versed in child custody to help you through the process.

Read More About:

Child Custody Battles Between Unmarried Parents

Child Custody Rights For Fathers

Family Law & Child Custody Information

How To Get Custody Of A Child In Arizona (Process)

Should I Hire A Mother’s Rights Attorney To Help With Obtaining Child Custody?

Child custody can be a very complex process. Although having an attorney is not always needed, particularly in cases where the child was born out of wedlock, and the father is no longer in the picture, hiring a knowledgeable family law attorney well versed in child custody may still be in your best interest.

If you are involved in a child custody struggle with the other parent of the child or are seeking to alter an existing child custody order, the process is much more intricate, and an experienced family law attorney is required.

A family law attorney that focuses child custody will be able to help you through the entire process of acquiring or modifying an existing child custody order, as well as help you build a strong case for custody if it goes to court.

*This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs. 480-744-7711 or [email protected]


  1. LaMance, Ken. “Mother’s Rights in Child Custody.” LegalMatch Law Library, 22 Feb. 2018, www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/mothers-rights-in-child-custody.html.

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We are experienced family law attorneys and will work with you to obtain the best possible outcome in your situation. You can trust us to represent you fully, so you can get on with your life. Call today for an initial consultation! 480-744-7711 or [email protected]

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