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Family Law

Father’s Rights in Texas

Taly Thiessen
Father’s Rights in Texas

Father’s rights in Texas may be one of the most difficult aspects of family law. At the least, being a father in the middle of a divorce case can be extremely difficult. In Texas, as in most states, the courts have traditionally sided with the mother when it comes to custody battles.

This can still happen, even though the father may be more suited to raise the children and even if the children prefer the father to have primary custody. Other aspects of the law present more challenges. For example, a man who is not married to a baby's mother and who is not listed on any paternity documents would have to seek legal intervention before having even the most basic parental rights.

That being said, there are laws in place that protect a father’s rights and prevent the unfair bias that sometimes takes place in the courtroom. For example, did you know that father’s rights to an unborn child in Texas may be established before birth? The key to father’s rights in Texas is a proven, relentless attorney to advocate for you. Here’s what you need to know about unmarried father’s rights in Texas.

The law and father's rights in Texas

In theory, father’s rights in Texas is a straightforward determination. The simplest way to determine if a man is considered to be a father of a child is if the man was married to the mother while the child was born. Although this is a general rule, it isn’t a “one size fits all” model.

The laws can get confusing and custody battles can easily turn into a nightmare if you do not have a Houston child custody lawyer that knows what a father’s rights are in the state of Texas. But what about unmarried father’s rights in Texas?

Do unmarried fathers have rights, as well? Can you get child support if you are not married? It’s important to know how the court will define your fathership before you enter a custody battle. The court likes to define fathers in three different definitions: the presumed father, the acknowledged father and the adjudicated father. Here’s how each definition fits into father’s rights in Texas.

The presumed father in Texas

The presumed father is generally the first step for working with father’s rights in Texas. However, there are often more steps to determining; being the presumed father does not mean you are the legal or biological father – yet.

For example, the presumed father would have no bearing on a custody holiday schedule. Specifically, the presumed father is neither confirmed nor denied as the actual father, until the appropriate steps have been taken through the law. According to Texas law,

(A) A man is presumed to be the father of a child if:

  1. he is married to the mother of the child and the child is born during the marriage;
     
  2.  he is married to the mother of the child and the child is born before the 301st day after the date the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce;
     
  3. he married the mother of the child before the birth of the child in apparent compliance with law, even if the attempted marriage is or could be declared invalid, and the child is born during the invalid marriage or before the 301st day after the date the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity or divorce;
     
  4. he married the mother of the child after the birth of the child in apparent compliance with law, regardless of whether the marriage is or could be declared invalid, he voluntarily asserted his paternity of the child, and:
     
    • the assertion is in a record filed with the vital statistics unit;
       
    • he is voluntarily named as the child’s father on the child’s birth certificate; or
       
    • he promised in a record to support the child as his own; or
       
  5. during the first two years of the child’s life, he continuously resided in the household in which the child resided and he represented to others that the child was his own.

(B) A presumption of paternity established under this section may be rebutted only by:

  1. an adjudication under Subchapter G 1; or
     
  2. the filing of a valid denial of paternity by a presumed father in conjunction with the filing by another person of a valid acknowledgment of paternity as provided by Section 160.305.

The acknowledged father in Texas

According to Tex. Fam. Code § 101.0010 acknowledged father is defined as a man who has established a father-child relationship under Chapter 160 [Uniform Parentage Act]. Because a child born to unwed parents has no legal father by law, becoming the acknowledged is key to unmarried father’s rights in Texas. This is accomplished by completing a signed acknowledgement of paternity and filing with the appropriate vital statistics bureau.

The adjudicated father in Texas & establishing paternity

Becoming the adjudicated father of a child is commonly referred to as establishing paternity. There are many benefits for establishing paternity for the child, the mother, and for the father. The adjudicated father is the most protected kind of father in the courtroom. Visit the Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § § 160.302 to 160.306 for a full description of what becoming a legal father means.

However, even if the father is listed on the birth certificate and has signed an acknowledgement of paternity, they will still have to bring court action in order to have enforceable rights to possession and access to the child.

Unmarried fathers rights in Texas

Unfortunately, unmarried fathers are at a disadvantage when it comes to child custody in Texas. Some clients have asked, “What rights does a father have if not on the birth certificate?” Sadly, the answer is the father will have no rights at this point until paternity has been established for the father in question.

This means that the mother of the child could legally withhold all possession and access to the child from the father, including the grandparents and other family of the father. Without court intervention, a mother could also legally move away from the father and take the child with her without consent from the father.

Paternity actions need to be initiated as soon as possible in order to protect the rights and duties afforded to each parent in the family code. Without this action, fathers could lose valuable bonding time with their children and set up large back child support obligations further down the road. 

How to secure father's rights in Texas 

Securing a father's rights in Texas is no easy feat. Historically, mothers have held an advantage over the father, sometimes even if the father is the more fitting parent. It's paramount for fathers to seek counsel from an attorney that cares and that knows the legal system through and through. 

Many people believe that only mothers are able to to win custody battles. However, there are some factors that could persuade the court to grant the father custody or extensive visitation rights. These factors include:

  • Financial status of the parents

  • Each of the parent’s moral character

  • Who the primary caregiver of the child is
     
  • Child’s preference taken into consideration depending on age
     
  • Best interest of the child or children 

Other father’s rights situations

There are many other situations that could complicate a custody battle in Texas, such as adoption, assisted reproduction and gestational agreements. In all cases, the wellbeing of the child will always, and rightfully so, be at the center of the court’s decision for granting custody.

Whether you’re seeking emergency temporary custody in Texas or working out a longer term solution, you should immediately consult an experienced family law attorney in Houston. Every case of father’s rights in Texas is unique and carries complexity that should be handled by the best attorney you can find.

How to Secure Father’s Rights in Texas

At Thiessen Law Firm, we know how to win child custody battles, how to educate our clients in family law and how to resolve custody issues with as little stress as possible. Call 713-864-9000 day or night for a free consultation or request a free consultation online in seconds.

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