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This is Todd Burnham, the Founding Partner of Burnham Law, and an experienced family law lawyer with a superb record. This blog talks about the differences you can expect in family court if you never got married.
First, we need to go over some of the terminology.
Dissolution of Marriage – This refers to the process by which a couple can end their marriage permanently. Essentially it is another term for “Divorce.” This includes the division of property and the terms of custody and child support.
Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (APR) – This determines the two major child custody issues: Parenting Time and Decision-making. This process is used both in traditional divorces (dissolution of marriage) and in cases where the parents were never married.
How does the APR differ in the case where parents were never married? It mostly doesn’t. If you’re separating with children but not married, what happens is a lot like a divorce but without the division of financial aspects like assets and debts. The Allocation of Parental Responsibilities, however, is mostly the same.
As we’ve said in previous posts, the best thing to do is for both parents to sort out the APR without going to court. They can come to an agreement that allocates decision-making, parenting time, extracurriculars, child support, religion, education, and more.
If the parents can’t come to an agreement, the courts will set an APR on all of those items. This is the same whether the parents were married or not. The scope and reach of the courts is the same in both cases. The only difference is how they are classified.
Married with children: Dissolution of Marriage.
Not Married with children: Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (APR)