Often, children feel the brunt of the conflict when their parents separate. In Texas, it is generally in the child’s best interest to have frequent and consistent contact with both parents. But sometimes, one parent frustrates this goal. Thus, you might wonder, can a mother keep the child away from the father?
Whether one parent can legally keep a child away from the other parent depends on several issues. The Larson Law Office explains some of these issues below to help you answer the question, Can a mother legally keep her child away from the father in Texas?
Is it illegal for a mother to keep the child away from the father? The answer depends on the legal relationship between the child and the father. Unless a father establishes legal paternity, he may not have any rights regarding the child, even if he signed the birth certificate.
If the father is married to the child’s mother at or near the time of the child’s birth, the father has presumed legal paternity. But suppose the parents were not married when the child was born. In that case, a father can only establish paternity through one of the following methods:
- Both parents sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity and file it with a Texas-certified entity, or
- One of the parents files a paternity case in a Texas family court.
In a paternity case, a judge decides biological paternity, often with a DNA test. Then the court rules on other issues affecting the child, such as child support, custody, and visitation.
Child Custody Orders
Suppose a father establishes that they are the legal father of a child. You might wonder, Can a mother keep the child away from the father if there’s no court-ordered custody or visitation schedule? If one parent withholds access to the child and there’s no court order in place, the other parent typically wants to know if they can do anything about it. The best method to ensure legally enforceable access to your child is through a conservatorship (custody) proceeding.
New Conservatorship Proceeding
In Texas, custody is called conservatorship. Conservatorship involves each parent’s right to make significant decisions about the child’s life, as well as the right to physical possession of the child.
Either parent can file a conservatorship proceeding to legally establish each parent’s rights. A conservatorship order designates the child’s residence and a schedule of when the child spends time with either parent. The court makes conservatorship decisions based on the child’s best interests and may limit a parent’s rights if there’s a history of abuse.
Existing Conservatorship Order
If the parents have a conservatorship order in place and one of the parents refuses to give the other parent their court-ordered parenting time, that parent can file a motion to enforce the order.
In a motion to enforce, the parent bringing the case will need the original conservatorship order, parenting plan, and evidence of the other parent’s refusal to give them access to the child. This can include notes made in a calendar or witness statements.
A parent’s failure to comply with a court order is contempt of court. The court can order significant penalties for contempt, including the following:
- Additional or make-up parenting time,
- Community supervision, or
- Jail time.
Motions to enforce can take time and effort. You should consult with a Texas family law attorney before filing or arguing such a motion, so you have a greater chance of obtaining a positive outcome.
Unpaid Child Support
Parents are legally obligated to financially support their children. But what if a mother tries to keep a child away from the father because the father is behind on paying child support?
Under Texas law, a parent cannot withhold possession or access to a child because the other parent hasn’t paid child support. To do so would be violating a court order. However, the parent who is owed support payments can bring an enforcement action against the non-paying parent. They can also ask the Attorney General to enforce the child support order.
If there’s a protective order between a parent and the child, that parent must abide by the terms of the protective order. Additionally, if there is a protective order between the parents, the order should address child access.
Our Family Attorneys Can Help with Child Access Issues
If you need help establishing parental rights or accessing your child, The Larson Law Office is here to help you. Our experienced family law attorneys will fight for your right to spend time with your children. Contact us today.