Fathers’ rights in Texas is one of the most difficult aspects of family law. Being a father in the middle of a divorce case is already hard but to add insult to injury, the court also tends to side with the mother when it comes to custody battles in Texas (and most other states).

Despite a growing fathers’ rights movement and an increase in father’s rights groups, issues with regard to father’s rights in Texas persist. For example, even though the father may be more suited to raise the children and even if the children prefer the father to have primary custody, the court often still favors the mother. Furthermore, a baby whose parents are married has no legal father in Texas.

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 fathers’ rights to an unborn child in Texas may be established before birth? 

The key to taking full advantage of your fathers’ rights in Texas and avoiding parental alienation frequently involves having a proven, relentless attorney stand by your side and advocate for your child’s best interests. To get you started, here’s what you need to know about unmarried fathers’ rights in Texas.

Is Texas a mother or father state?

There is no legal definition of a “mother state” or “father state,” but the terms are being used more frequently as non-legal shorthand for states that do/don’t do a good job of supporting fathers’ rights. With that said, Texas is technically neither a mother nor a father state, but fathers can and have argued that Texas law is biased towards mothers. 

For more more in-depth information on basic fathers’ rights in Texas, check out these helpful articles by Thiessen Law Firm. 

What rights does a father have in Texas?

In theory, it should be easy to determine what rights a father has in Texas. Where things get complicated is determining whether or not a man is a child’s father.

In Texas, 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. But not all couples marry before having children, and when this occurs, the laws regarding fathers’ rights can get complicated. 

In these cases, the court likes to define fathers in three different definitions: the presumed father, the acknowledged father and the legal father. Here’s how each definition fits into fathers’ rights in Texas.

The presumed father in Texas

Being designated as a presumed father is generally the first step for working with fathers’ rights in Texas. According to Texas family law, 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:

(A) the assertion is in a record filed with the vital statistics unit;

(B) he is voluntarily named as the child’s father on the child’s birth certificate; or

(C) 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.

In short, being designated as the presumed father does not mean you are the legal or biological father. That means that the presumed father is neither confirmed nor denied as the actual father, until the appropriate steps have been taken through the law, and thus doesn’t have typical fathers’ rights, such as having a say in a custody holiday schedule

The acknowledged father in Texas

According to Tex. Fam. Code § 101.0010 an 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 father is key to unmarried fathers’ rights in Texas. The process to become the acknowledged father is fairly simple: both the mother and father of the child must sign an acknowledgement of paternity (AOP) form.

If the presumed father (such as a woman’s current husband) is not the genetic father, then an additional “denial of paternity” form should be submitted. This form must be signed by the presumed father to certify that they are not the child’s parent. 

The legal father in Texas

Becoming the legal father of a child is commonly referred to as establishing paternity. There are many benefits for establishing paternity for the father, the child, and the mother. A legal father is the most protected kind of father in the courtroom and more likely to win joint custody in Texas in case of divorce. Visit the Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § § 160.302 to 160.306 for a full description of what becoming a legal father means.

Unmarried fathers have 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 they are 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.

Nine times out of ten, if an unmarried mother is a good mother, then she will win primary custody of the child regardless of how good of a parent the father may be. Although, some factors 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 at times

For more information, check out our article on Child Custody Laws in Texas  for Unmarried Parents

Other fathers’ 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 be at the center of the court’s decision for granting custody, and rightfully so.

Whether you’re trying to establish paternity, 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 fathers’ rights in Texas is unique and carries complexity that should be handled by the best attorney you can find. 

What are my legal rights as a father in Texas? Thiessen Law Firm can help you determine your fathers’ rights in Texas.

Securing a fathers’ rights in Texas is no easy feat. The mother will always have an advantage over the father — sometimes even if the father is a more fitting parent. This is why it’s paramount for fathers to seek counsel from a Houston child custody lawyer that cares and that knows the legal system through in through.

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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