Child custody laws in Texas for unmarried parents are very similar to child custody laws for parents who were previously married to each other. However, there is one very important distinction that’s especially important for fathers. 

Who has legal custody of a child when the parents are not married? 

When parents are married to each other, child custody laws in Texas state that paternity is assumed. But what if the parents are not married? In Texas, if a child’s parents are unmarried, the mother has automatic custody rights over the child, both physical and legal. Meanwhile, an unmarried father has extremely limited rights, even if his name is on the birth certificate.  

What rights does an unmarried father have in Texas? 

According to child custody laws in Texas, an unmarried father must take legal steps before having any specific rights over their child. First, he must establish paternity. Again, this goes beyond having your name on the child’s birth certificate. 

Most people go one of two ways to establish paternity: by signing an “Acknowledgement of Paternity” (AOP) or getting a DNA test. A DNA test requires a cheek swab from both the father, mother, and child. If the mother of the child is not cooperating, the father will likely need legal help via a court order.

Once paternity has been established, the parents (or one parent) will want to make sure to submit a court order to establish custody rights. This court order is necessary for an unmarried father to have any rights over their child.

Struggling to establish paternity or get child custody? These articles may help. 

What kind of custody options do unmarried fathers and mothers have? 

Parents need to have a comprehensive court order that addresses all the issues within a custody arrangement.

First, a custody arrangement or court order is broken down into multiple key items. Conservatorship, rights and duties, possession, access, support are all main issues when determining custody.

Conservatorship is the legal term for parents. This designation also establishes who will designate the residence of the child. There are joint managing conservators, sole managing conservators, and possessory conservators in Texas.

Rights and duties are specific actions that can be taken on behalf of one parent exclusively, jointly, or independent from each other. They include the right to consent to medical, dental, and psychological treatment, as well as make decisions regarding education.

Possession and access refer to the actual time that you have with your child, more often referred to as “visitation”.

Unmarried parents who haven’t established a legally binding child custody arrangement, will want to find a top-rated child custody and child support attorney in Houston. Even if both parents get along great, a family lawyer can make sure that everything is set up in the best interest of the child. 

Child custody laws in Texas are complicated. Don’t be afraid to get help.

The way your child custody agreement is set up can impact everything from how often you are able to see your child to how much child support you’re obligated to pay every month. In other words, Texas child custody laws can have a huge impact on your quality of life. 

Thiessen Law Firm’s Taly Thiessen is a leading father’s rights lawyer in Houston. She can help you navigate the murky waters of Texas child custody laws.

Call Thiessen Law Firm at 713-864-9000 or request a consultation today.

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Taly Thiessen

Taly Thiessen is a strong attorney with a solid background in criminal law, family law and litigation. She is the advocate you would want to win your case.