Know Your Texas Parental Rights
The following are examples of Texas Parenting Rights and Duties that can be addressed by family courts and allocated to parents in formulating Texas Parenting Plans:
- Duty to inform the other conservators of the child in a timely manner of significant information concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child.
- Right to receive information from any other conservator of the child concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child.
- Right to confer with the other parent, to the extent possible, before making a decision concerning the health, education, and welfare of the child
- Right of access to medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the child.
- Right to consult with a physician, dentist, or psychologist of the child.
- Right to consult with school officials concerning the child’s welfare and educational status, including school activities.
- Right to attend school activities.
- Right to be designated on the child’s records as a person to be notified in case of an emergency.
- Right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment during an emergency involving immediate danger to the health and safety of the child.
- Duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child.
- Duty to support the child, including providing the child with clothing, food, shelter, and medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure.
- Right to consent for the child to medical and dental care not involving an invasive procedure.
- Right to direct the moral and religious training of the child.
- Duty to make periodic child-support payments.
- Right to designate the primary residence of the child without regard to geographic location.
- Right to consent to medical, dental, and surgical treatment involving invasive procedures.
- Right to consent to psychiatric and psychological treatment.
- Right to receive and give receipt for periodic payments for the support of the child and hold or disburse the funds for the benefit of the child.
- 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 its 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.
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.