Families come in all different shapes and sizes. According to the most recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 40 percent of the children in Texas are born to unmarried parents. If you and your partner are not married, there are some unique issues that will impact your child custody case. It is important that you have a basic understanding of how the Texas custody laws can impact the rights of unmarried parents.
In this article, our compassionate Austin child custody lawyer highlights the most important things that unmarried parents need to know about the child custody laws in Texas. If you are an unmarried mother or unmarried father, and you have any questions or any concerns about child custody or child visitation, please do not hesitate to contact our legal team today to arrange a fully confidential consultation.
Child Custody and Unmarried Parents: Paternity Must Be Resolved
In child custody cases involving unmarried parents, the first issue that must be addressed is paternity. When parents are married at the time of a birth, paternity is simply assumed as a matter of law. If no action is taken, then a man will become the legal father of his wife’s child. No documentation needs to be filled out and no forms need to be submitted.
However, with unmarried parents, paternity is not assumed. It does not matter how long the romantic relationship has lasted; parental rights and parental obligations will not be automatically bestowed on the father. In order for parental rights, such as the ability to obtain custody or visitation, or parental duties, such as the obligation to provide child support, to be established, action must be taken by the parents.
In Texas, there are two basic ways for unmarried parents to establish paternity. First, both parents can sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity (AOP). When this happens, the father will be granted paternity. This is the best option if there is no dispute over who is the father of the child. The second option involves a petition to adjudicate parentage. In other words, the paternity case will go to a family law court. Typically, this is necessary if there is a dispute over paternity. In some cases, a Texas court will even order genetic testing to resolve the dispute.
Establishing Custody and Creating a Visitation Schedule
Once paternity is resolved, Texas child custody cases involving unmarried parents work in much the same way as do Texas child custody cases that involve parents who were previously married. The two parents must come to a workable child custody and visitation arrangement. In general, this is best done through collaborative negotiation or through professionally guided family law mediation. However, that is not always possible. You may be dealing with an unreasonable partner. In some cases, a custody or visitation case involving unmarried parents will be required to go to a Texas family law court.
Texas courts will always look to craft a child custody/visitation arrangement that is in the ‘best interests of the child’. In determining a child’s best interests, Texas family law courts have the authority to consider a wide range of different factors. Some of the most important factors can be found by referencing Texas Family Code (FAM § 263.307. Notably, in Texas, it is assumed to be in the best interests of children to have an active, ongoing relationship with both of their parents. This is true for divorcing parents and for unmarried parents. Texas courts strongly favor custody/visitation arrangements that involve shared parenting and mutually agreeable solutions.
Still, unmarried parents need to know how to protect their own parental rights. It is strongly recommended that unmarried parents are represented by a skilled Texas child custody lawyer in any dispute. No matter how well you get along with your child’s other parent, you will benefit from having experienced legal representation by your side.
Contact Our Austin Child Custody Attorney Today
At the Law Office of Ben Carrasco PLLC, our dedicated Texas child custody lawyer has extensive experience representing unmarried parents through a wide range of child custody dispute and child visitation issues. If you are an unmarried parent in need of child custody guidance, our legal team is here to help.
For a fully private review of your child custody case, please contact us today by calling 512.320.9126 or filling out our online contact form. With an office in Austin, we represent parents throughout the region, including in Round Rock, Georgetown, San Marcos, Spicewood, Buda, Camp Swift, and Pflugerville.