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Who Has Child Custody When Parents are Unmarried?

child custody laws in TX

Not all parents get married. However, if they decide to split up or there is another unique situation, custody matters can become quite complicated compared to couples who got married and then divorced.

Texas Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents

According to Texas law, if the parents are unmarried, the child's mother has automatic legal and physical custody even when the father's name is listed on the birth certificate. If the father wishes to gain custody, he must petition the courts.

Legal custody determines who has the right to make major decisions for the child's healthcare, education, religious upbringing, and other significant matters. Both parents can share legal custody. On the other hand, physical custody is the parent who has the right to have their child live with them. One or both parents may share physical custody parents.

If a father wants parental rights, Texas requires them to establish paternity first. Without doing this, the father essentially has no rights to custody and visitation of their child. Conversely, the legal parent cannot obtain child support until paternity is established.

Can an Unmarried Father Obtain Custody?

First, the unmarried father must establish paternity to have parental rights. This can be done in two different ways. First, the father can sign legal paperwork acknowledging paternity, a form that the child's mother and father sign that states that the man is indeed the child's genetic father.

Another method they can use to establish paternity is to obtain a DNA test. The mother and child will also need to be swabbed, and the father claiming paternity will need to get a court order if the mother does not consent to the test to have her comply.

Once paternity is established, the father can proceed to court to obtain custody rights. Fathers need to get a court order in these cases to have any rights over their children.

Protect Your Family's Interests

Texas paternity and child custody laws can be confusing. It's important to remember that how your child custody agreement is set up will impact the future of your relationship with your child. Seek competent help from a Woodlands child custody attorney today to protect your family's best interests.

Call(713) 364-0777 for a free consultation to discuss your child custody matter in the Houston area.