An alarming statistic was revealed on May 15, 2009. According to the Center for Disease Control, about 40% of all babies born alive in the United States are born to unmarried mothers.
The CDC report highlights are these:
- Childbearing by unmarried women has resumed a steep climb since 2002.
- Births to unmarried women totaled 1,714,643 in 2007, 26% more than in 2002. Nearly 4 in 10 U.S. births were to unmarried women in 2007.
- Birth rates have risen considerably for unmarried women in their twenties and over, while declining or changing little for unmarried teenagers.
- Non-marital birth rates are highest for Hispanic women followed by black women. Rates for non-Hispanic white and Asian or Pacific Islander women are much lower.
- Most births to teenagers (86% in 2007) are non-marital, but 60% of births to women 20–24 and nearly one-third of births to women 25–29 were non-marital in 2007.
- Teenagers accounted for just 23% of non-marital births in 2007, down steeply from 50% in 1970. [This is significant because it means that the initiatives to reduce teen pregnancy are really working!]
The CDC report may be read or downloaded here. http://tinyurl.com/ovgd4x
Research has shown strong links between illegitimacy and poor outcomes for children. In other words, these babies are at far greater risk than infants born to married parents for living in poverty, being victims of abuse or neglect, experiencing problems in school and with juvenile delinquency or living in foster care.
The high incidence of non-marital births is something that I see every day in my practice. These cases present as neglect or abuse cases, as custody or parenting time disputes, as child support cases or as parental kidnapping cases. Sometimes my clients are mothers; sometimes the father is my client. Often the Acknowledgment of Parentage Act will have an impact initially because that Act gives the mother initial custody. In other words, if the parents are married, each parent has a right to physical custody of the children. If the parents are unmarried, the mother may remove the child from the home shared (or not) with the father. She has the freedom to travel and may leave the state of Michigan before the father can protect his parental rights.
Sometimes (usually) the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act can help the left behind parent protect his or her rights. But sometimes the particular facts of a case do not compel that result.
When the parents have lived together, they have sometimes accumulated property. If that is real estate and they've been poorly advised and taken titled as joint tenants with rights of survivorship additional and significant legal problems arise. If one of the parties has moved into the other's home and made financial contributions, unless there is a marriage to dissolve, the non-owner usually receives no reimbursement for his or her hard-earned dollars. If the relationship has been a long-term one, the financial advantages to the titled party are significant and the financial detriment to the non-titled party can be crushing.
While the economic slowdown has significantly reduced the ability of people to seek out legal representation, the need for the help of a lawyer to protect a parties' rights to custody, parental relationships (parenting time), and to protect property rights that are often significant should warrant those who are unmarried to seek out a skilled family lawyer to help them protect their rights.