Child custody laws in Texas are straightforward for married parents. However, unmarried parents may face additional challenges when or if custody comes into question.
An unmarried Texas mother is automatically given legal and physical custody. To obtain legal parental rights, the father must first establish paternity.
Whether an unmarried mother seeks child support or a biological father wishes to be part of his child’s life, the first step is establishing paternity. A DNA test consisting of a simple cheek swab for both the child and the potential father can easily make that determination. However, it fails to be a simple process when one of the parents refuses to cooperate. In that case, an attorney can intervene.
After establishing paternity, whether voluntarily or by court order, the father can seek custody. If awarded, he may have the right to take part in significant decisions in the child’s life, and he may or may not have some level of physical custody.
In 2019, the CDC reported that 41.4% of babies were born to unmarried mothers. It is common for an unmarried mother to seek child support from the biological father. She may also want to establish a relationship between the father and child because that is in the child’s best interest. On the other hand, if paternity is not established, the mother can refuse to allow visitation and leave the state or even the country without the father’s permission.
In a custody situation, regardless of marital status, parental rights fall in two primary areas. The first is the right to make significant decisions on the child’s behalf, and the other is the degree to which each parent will have physical access to the child for custody or visitation.