When a child is born to unmarried parents, Texas law says that the mother automatically has legal and physical custody of the child. That means that she has the authority to make legal decisions about the child’s life like the healthcare the child will receive, the child’s education and religion. It also means that the child will live with her. This holds true even if the father’s name is on the birth certificate.
What Can a Father Do To Gain Child Custody?
In Texas, fathers must establish paternity if they wish to have parental rights, including legal and physical custody. There are two ways to establish paternity in Texas:
- Sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP). An AOP is a legal document that allows parents who aren’t married to establish legal paternity. To get started, you can call the Attorney General’s AOP Hotline at 866-255-2006 or find an AOP certified entity online.
- Get a DNA test. Fathers can also file a special paternity lawsuit—or Suit to Adjudicate Parentage—in court. The lawsuit will require the father to take a DNA test, and the mother and child may also be required to file one. If the mother doesn’t consent, the father may need to ask the court to order her to submit to the DNA test.
After paternity is established, child custody isn’t automatic. The court will still need to issue an Order that gives the father child custody rights. This generally also includes an Order for the father to pay child support.
Like in other child custody cases, courts consider the best interests of the child when considering child custody in a paternity lawsuit. Courts weigh things like:
- The desires of the child
- The emotional needs of the child
- The parental ability of the parent seeking custody
- Programs available to assist the parent and the children.
The court’s analysis is different depending on the age of the child and that child’s unique needs.
Talk With a Lawyer About Protecting Your Parental Rights
If you are worried about protecting your relationship with your child in Texas, it’s a good idea to talk with the lawyers at the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., as soon as possible. We focus on protecting the best interests of the child by keeping parents and children together.
Call our Arlington law firm at 817-799-7125 to get started. Consultations with our attorneys are confidential. We’ll talk with you about your options and help you understand the best course of action.