Right to make decisions concerning the child’s education.
Establishing a Father’s Parental Rights in Texas
For unmarried men who father a child, legally establishing oneself as the father protects parental rights. Without established paternity, a mother can refuse to allow the father visitation or decision-making privileges over the child’s life.
When Do the Courts Presume Paternity?
Married men enjoy a presumption of parentage that eliminates the need to legally prove paternity.
The Uniform Parentage Act (Texas Family Code Section 160) states that a man is presumed to be the father of a child in Texas if the couple was married when the child was born or if he voluntarily asserts parentage by putting his name on the birth certificate or by living with the child and acting as the father for the first two years of the child’s life.
How to Establish Parental Rights in Texas
Where no presumption exists, there are two ways that a man can gain a parent’s rights in Texas.
The easiest way to establish paternity is for both parents to sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP). This form states that both parents agree that the man is the child’s biological father.
The second way involves the father filing a suit to adjudicate parentage. This requires a DNA test that includes the mother, the child, and the putative father. In many cases, the father will need to get a court order for the mother to comply with this testing.
Once the father establishes paternity, he must secure a court order that grants him custody rights. At this point, the father can enjoy full parental rights to his child.
Issues such as custody, child support, and the ability to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing can be worked out between the parents or adjudicated by a judge, but both parents will receive equal consideration by the court at this stage.
Mother’s Parental Rights
The issue of a mother’s rights comes up when the parents are unmarried or divorcing. Texas used to give mothers priority in child custody decisions, but that is no longer the case.
Instead, the court now looks solely at how the facts relate to the child’s best interest to determine custody.
A judge considers each parent’s relationship with the child, the parents’ living situations, past instances of abuse or neglect, and each parent’s ability to care for the child when making custody determinations.
The court no longer gives either parent an advantage based on their sex because of the Texas Family Code’s provisions.
Unmarried Mother’s Rights
A unmarried mother who gives birth to a child automatically gets the full legal rights of motherhood in Texas.
She gets full custody and decision-making rights regarding the child’s upbringing unless and until the father asserts paternity rights.
Having this control seems ideal until you factor in the financial burden mothers face when raising a fatherless child. Therefore, an unmarried mother can seek a court-ordered paternity test to determine who the biological father is.
After the court establishes paternity, the mother can now seek child support. However, she must keep in mind that by seeking that paternity test she has now given the father the right to seek some custody and decision-making rights regarding the child’s upbringing.
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Drafting a Parenting Plan: Topics to Consider
When dealing with a child custody case or divorce where children are involved, these Texas parenting rights and responsibilities will be included in the divorce decree or custody order. These rights and responsibilities can be independent or exclusive, with several permutations including:
independently held with consultation of the other parent;
independently held with the agreement of the other parent;
exclusive to one parent with consultation of the other parent;
exclusive to one parent with the agreement of the other parent required; or
held by exclusively one parent with no consultation or agreement required.
Our attorneys can help you address these rights and responsibilities in your custody or divorce case.
Questions About Parenting Rights Responsibilities in Texas? Contact Our Law Firm Today!
If you are uncertain about your options regarding Texas parenting rights and duties, you may want experienced legal advisors in dealing with these issues.