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What Rights Do Unmarried Couples Have in Texas?

 Posted on August 08, 2023 in Child Custody

Austin Child Custody Lawyer In Texas, as in many other states, child custody matters can become complex and emotionally challenging for unmarried couples who are separating. Unlike married couples, unmarried partners don't automatically have the same legal rights regarding child custody and visitation. Having an experienced Austin child custody attorney who can shed light on the child custody rights that unmarried couples have in Texas and provide insights into potential legal options to navigate these sensitive issues is imperative.

Understanding Parental Rights for Unmarried Couples

In Texas, the parent-child relationship is presumed for a child born to a married couple. However, for unmarried couples, establishing parental rights requires legal action. 

Texas law recognizes the biological mother as the child's natural guardian, granting her sole custody unless otherwise determined by the court. Consequently, the biological father doesn't have automatic parental rights, even if he is named on the birth certificate.

Establishing Paternity

To claim parental rights, unmarried fathers must first establish legal paternity. This can be achieved through various means, such as signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) form at the time of the child's birth or through a court-ordered DNA test to prove biological parentage. Once paternity is established, the father can pursue custody and visitation rights.

Types of Custody in Texas

In Texas, custody can be divided into two primary categories: physical custody (also known as possession and access) and legal custody.

Physical Custody

This pertains to where the child resides and how much time they spend with each parent. The court may award either joint physical custody, where the child spends significant time with both parents, or sole custody to one parent, with the other having visitation rights.

Legal Custody

This involves the right to make decisions about the child's welfare, such as education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. Legal custody can be granted jointly or solely, depending on the child's best interests.

Determining Custody in the Best Interest of the Child

When determining child custody arrangements, Texas courts, like most other state courts, prioritize the child's best interests above all else. They consider various factors, including:

  • The child's physical and emotional needs

  • The stability and capability of each parent to provide a safe environment

  • The child's relationship with each parent

  • Any history of domestic violence or substance abuse from either parent

Child Custody Mediation and Court Proceedings

Unmarried couples who can reach a mutual agreement on child custody matters may opt for mediation, where a neutral third party helps facilitate discussions and arrive at a parenting plan that suits both parties and, most importantly, the child's best interests. Each parent needs to hire their own Austin child custody attorney to represent their interest in the negotiations.

If mediation isn't successful, the court may intervene, and both parties must present their case to the judge. Legal representation is also crucial in this situation to ensure fair consideration of your parental rights and advocate for your child's well-being.

Questions About Your Rights as an Unmarried Parent? Contact a Seasoned Austin Child Custody Lawyer Today

Child custody rights for unmarried couples in Texas can be complex and emotionally challenging. Establishing paternity, determining custody types, and advocating for the child's best interests all play critical roles in the legal process. 

At Powers Kerr & Rashidi, PLLC, we advocate for your parental rights, whether you have never been married or are going through a divorce. Call our office today at 512-610-6199 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced Austin child custody attorneys.

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