If you are an unmarried father, you have the same right to seek custody and visitation as does the child’s mother. In practice, unwed dads face some unique challenges. Establishing and exercising your parental rights can sometimes be difficult. You need to be proactive. Here, our Dallas child custody attorneys explain the most important things you need to know about fathers’ custody rights in Texas.
You Must Establish Paternity to Access Any Parental Rights
As explained by the Attorney General of Texas, paternity is the concept of legal fatherhood. In Texas, a man only has parental rights/parental responsibilities if he is determined to be the legal father of the child. For married couples, the process of establishing paternity is extremely simple — you do not have to do anything at all. A married man is presumed to be the legal father of his wife’s child. In contrast, unmarried fathers must take action to establish paternity. If you do not establish paternity, you cannot seek custody or visitation.
How Unmarried Fathers Can Prove Paternity in Texas
There are two primary ways unmarried dads can establish paternity in Texas:
- Voluntary Acknowledgement: The easiest way for an unmarried dad to prove paternity is through a voluntary acknowledgement form. To be clear, you can only use this form if the child’s mother agrees you are the father. She will need to sign an affidavit confirming you are the child’s father.
- DNA Paternity Test: If the child’s mother is unwilling or unable to sign a voluntary acknowledgement form, unmarried fathers must seek a DNA paternity test. When appropriate, a court can order such a test — even if the child’s mother refuses to cooperate.
Claiming Custody Rights as an Unwed Father in Texas
Proving paternity is the beginning of the process, not the end. With paternity, an unmarried father will then have the legal right to seek sole custody, shared custody, or visitation. What type of arrangement will be possible depends entirely on the specific circumstances of the case. As a rule, it is best to try to work with the child’s mother to come to a workable custody/time-sharing arrangement. Of course, that is not possible or advisable in every situation.
If you are an unmarried father involved in a custody or visitation dispute, our top-rated family lawyers are standing by, ready to help. There are more than 100,000 licensed attorneys in Texas, and our law firm has as many attorneys rated in the Thomson Reuters’ list of Top 100 Super Lawyers as any other firm in the state. We are ready to take action to protect your custody rights and help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.
Contact Our Texas Child Custody Lawyers for Immediate Assistance
At Orsinger, Nelson, Downing and Anderson, LLP, our Texas child custody attorneys handle all types of fathers’ rights cases. If you are an unwed father involved in a custody dispute, we are here to help. To set up a confidential review of your case, please contact us now. With offices in North Texas and San Antonio, we represent fathers all over the state.