In many ways, child custody laws in Texas are more complex if the couple is not married than if they are seeking a divorce. In some respects, an unmarried mother will have more rights than a married mother. For instance, she instantly gets full legal custody and physical custody of the child, unless the father claiming paternity has successfully completed the acknowledgment of paternity (AOP) process. However, on the other hand, the unmarried mother cannot claim child support in this situation either.
This is only the beginning of the complexities of Texas child custody laws. If the unmarried father wishes to establish paternity, he must get the cooperation of the mother or undertake a paternity suit. This must be done to secure a joint managing conservatorship, no matter how amicable the parents are, and to secure the visitation rights and child support privileges that come with it.
No matter what side of the paternity suit you are on, our team of family law attorneys can help you. We have tackled Texas family laws for unmarried parents from every angle, and achieved the desired results from many clients in your position.
Do not compromise when it comes to your rights to your child’s paternity. Call The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC today at 832-843-1691!
An Unmarried Child’s Mother Is Automatically Granted Full Custody In Texas
Comparatively, a mother who is unmarried has debatably more child custody rights than mothers belonging to married couples. Custody laws in Texas mean that unmarried mothers always have both full physical custody and full legal custody of their child automatically.
Custody in the legal sense means that you have the right to make all major decisions in your child’s life. This means you can decide the child’s primary residence, their religious upbringing, make legal decisions on their behalf, make choices about their education, handle the child’s healthcare, and all other vital things of this nature.
Physical custody simply means the right to have your child live with you. This is usually granted to the other parent who does not have legal custody in a sole managing conservatorship.
Unmarried mothers are granted both of the above as soon as their child is born, by default.
Unmarried Mothers’ Rights Do Not Extend To Child Support
The answer to the question ‘Does the mother have full custody if not married in Texas?’ may be an automatic yes, but things can be more complicated than that. While a mother who is not married may have more parental rights, there is a large downside. No unmarried parent has the right to receive child support.
This means that unless you are willing to assist the child’s father and help him establish paternity (or unless he does so of his own accord, through a paternity suit) you are unlikely to receive financial assistance from the child’s father, as you have no legal right or entitlement to it.
An Unmarried Father Has Very Few Parental Rights In Texas
Unfortunately, of the two sexes of unmarried parents, child custody laws in Texas strongly favor unmarried mothers. Unmarried fathers do not usually have any rights to custody – either legal or physical.
This is even true if the father’s name is on the child’s birth certificate – unless they have completed the acknowledgment of paternity process and had their paternity legally established prior to the custody dispute, which is unfortunately a fairly uncommon situation.
Establishing Paternity When Both The Mother And Father Agree
Establishing paternity when both the father and the mother are willing to work together is fairly straightforward, and can be done long before unmarried parents run into any of the difficulties that could presage a child custody battle.
In fact, it would be wise for any unmarried father to establish paternity as soon as possible, as unmarried fathers’ rights under Texas law are next to non-existent. It can be worlds easier to become a legal parent while you and your partner are still in an amicable relationship, even if you do not think you will split up in the future.
In cases where both parents are willing to work together, you will both simply need to sign an acknowledgment of paternity (AOP) form to establish paternity.
How To Establish Paternity If One Parent Will Not Cooperate
If one parent will not cooperate when it comes to establishing the official paternity, that is not the end of the world. There is a legal route that you can follow to establish paternity. This is equally true if you are a biological mother looking to obtain child support or a biological father who wants to establish custody rights.
In order to establish paternity in this way, you must file a paternity suit against the other parent. If the two of you cannot agree to sign the acknowledgment of paternity form, a DNA test will be forced by court order.
If the results of this DNA test show the child’s presumed father to be the child’s genetic father, paternity will have been established. At this point, the mothers of unmarried couples will have the right to seek child support money, and the fathers of unmarried couples will be able to enter into legal disputes to fight for a favorable child custody agreement.
This is the process for unmarried parents where there is no ambiguity around who the child’s biological father is. If there are ambiguities around the biological father, the process may look different, as we will explain in the following section.
Seeking Paternity If The True Father Is Ambiguous
For both married parents and unmarried parents alike, things are not always as they seem. The presumed father may not be the true father, even if their name is on the child’s birth certificate.
If you have reason to believe that you are a child’s true father, and their presumed father is in fact not related to their child, you have exactly four years from the birth of that child to challenge paternity. This is known as the statute of limitations.
However, if there is no presumed father and the mother is simply a single mother with no father claiming paternity, even unofficially, there will be no statute of limitations for challenging paternity.
The Advantages Of Establishing Official Paternity
Establishing true paternity can come with benefits for one or both parents, depending on the desires of the parents themselves. Once paternity has been established, the laws for unmarried parents are similar to those for married parents.
These advantages are:
- The right to seek monetary support for your child will be legally established.
- You will be able to enter into a custody arrangement, letting you share legal custody, establish a legal schedule for child visits, and otherwise establish the other factors involved in securely sharing the life of your child.
- You will benefit from the other protections granted under child custody laws in Texas. These may protect you from unfair treatment at the hands of the other parent.
Hire An Attorney Today To Help With Your Child Custody Issues
Child custody laws in Texas are complex and can be difficult to navigate, especially for unmarried parents. A father who is unmarried may be completely prevented from seeing his child should he split up with the mother, even if his name is on the birth certificate. Similarly, Texas custody laws afford a mother who is not married no legal right to claim money from the father that she may need to raise her child.
No matter what your situation is, we are here waiting to help with your case. Our team of attorneys are well-versed in Texas child custody laws and have the skills, experience, and compassion to handle your case in the most smooth and dedicated manner possible. Whether you are seeking a custody arrangement, a paternity suit, or advice about a complex parental situation, we can help.
Do not let legal complexities stand in the way of your parental rights. Call a child custody lawyer at The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC today at 832-843-1691!