Whether unmarried fathers have parental rights is a common concern among men who have children and are unmarried to their children’s partner. Sadly, our Texas family law firm is familiar with unmarried fathers’ parental rights.
Unfortunately, the short answer is no.
Under Texas law, the mother automatically has legal and physical custody of a child when the two parents are unmarried. Therefore, even if fathers are on the birth certificate, they do not have parental rights if unmarried in Texas.
Because the father has no legal rights to their child, a mother would be legally able to;
- Move the child to another location, including another state or outside the country.
- Limit visitation with the father and the father’s family. Visitation could include no visitation at all.
- Make all parenting decisions, including education, religion, travel, and day-to-day parenting.
So, is there a way that fathers can establish parental rights in Texas?
How to establish parental rights for unmarried fathers in Texas
If you are an unmarried father in Texas looking to establish parental rights, you must prove that you are indeed the child’s father. There are three steps to establishing paternity.
- The father needs to do a DNA paternity test or a court order patiently test.
- Complete and file an Acknowledgment of Paternity
- Once the first two steps have been completed, if you are not already on the birth certificate, you can file a document to add your name to the child’s birth certificate.
Paternal father’s benefits and rights
There are a few reasons why a father needs to establish parental rights. First, the child’s best interest is to create a strong bond and relationship with the paternal father. Two, for the father to have rights and make decisions when co-parenting. Three, the child will have access to the father’s medical history, and four, the child will be able to inherit access from the father.
After establishing paternity, the father will need another court order to establish custody rights. This court order is necessary for the father to establish rights over the child.
Parental rights over the child will include;
- Visitation rights
- Work with the child’s mother or the courts to create a visitation schedule.
- Have equal rights in co-parenting decisions such as healthcare, education, religious matters, and day-to-day parenting
- The child can travel with both parents.
- The right to petition for custody if the mother is found to be unfit
- The right to prevent the child’s mother from taking the child out of state without his consent
- Allows the parents to change the child’s last name if desired
Do you need help establishing parental rights in Texas?
If you are an unmarried father who is looking to establish parental rights. It’s in your best interest to work with an experienced family law attorney who will be able to help you through the entire process, from setting up your DNA parental test to assisting you with your child custody agreement and visitation.
Our Texas family law firm provides full representation for men and women and will work to ensure you are treated fairly and protect your interest and that of your children.