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Does Being Unmarried Affect Guardianship?

With more couples living together without being married, the way child custody and guardianship is approached has to change depending on the situation. If break-ups occur without a divorce, there may be few ways to recover assets or other things through the legal system, but guardianship is one area that is strictly defined for parents.

One question many have is, “does being unmarried affect a person’s ability to apply for guardianship or arrange contact with his or her children?” In Canada as a whole, it’s been shown that parents either had a court order for custody, guardianship and its variations or were in the process of obtaining guardianship in 48 per cent of cases reviewed. Without being legally married, guardianship becomes more difficult, as parents must prove their relationship to a child; this is much easier for mothers, which may explain some of the next statistics skewed toward mothers receiving guardianship of their children.

In 79.3 per cent of cases, it was shown that mothers had exclusive custody in these arrangements, while 6.6 per cent of fathers did. Almost 13 per cent of couples shared custody. In cases where children were between 6 and 11, it was more likely for fathers to obtain exclusive custody or to have shared physical custody with the mother.

The type of union the parents have broken does seem to affect the custody arrangement. In unions with no marriage or common-law arrangement, 82 per cent of mothers obtained custody exclusively while 5.3 per cent of fathers did the same. Another 10.9 per cent of people shared physical custody of their children. Most children were found to live with their mothers with varied relationships and visitation times with their fathers.

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