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How Is Custody Determined for a Child Born Out of Wedlock in Texas?

Posted on in Child Custody

TX family lawyerIn a Texas divorce, parents of young children must resolve the issues of custody and visitation. This can come with many challenges, including how to fairly allocate time with the children and decision-making responsibilities now that the parents will no longer live together. However, there is usually little question as to whether each parent has rights regarding the child. On the other hand, when a child is born to unmarried parents, questions of parental rights and child custody are of immediate concern upon the child’s birth. If you have a child out of wedlock, it is important to understand what you may need to do in order to obtain custody.

Establishing Parentage in Texas

In most cases, when a child is born to an unmarried woman in Texas, she is considered to be the child’s mother with all of the rights that come with the parent-child relationship, including custody of the child. However, in this case, the child’s father often does not have automatic parental rights, meaning that the mother will have sole custody and the father will not be legally entitled to custody or visitation.

If an unmarried father wishes to secure parental rights, he will need to do one of the following:

  • Demonstrate that he had previously been married to the mother and that the marriage ended within 300 days of the child’s birth. In this case, he will be presumed to be the child’s legal father.
  • Sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity along with the child’s mother either upon or after the child’s birth.
  • Petition the court for adjudication of parentage. This often requires that the man takes a genetic test to determine that he is the child’s biological father.
  • Live with the child continuously for the first two years of the child’s life and represent himself as the child’s father. This also creates a legal presumption of paternity, but fathers are usually better off pursuing a more definitive judgment that takes effect before two years.

Custody and Visitation for Unmarried Mothers and Fathers

The good news for unmarried fathers is that once paternity has been established, Texas courts will not discriminate based on a parent’s gender or marital status when deciding the terms of a custody or visitation order. Rather, the determining factor is the child’s best interests. If the mother and father can reach an agreement on a parenting plan, or if the father can demonstrate to the court that the child will benefit from his involvement in the child’s life, the father will be granted some form of custody rights. This could include visitation (also known as possessory conservatorship), joint managing conservatorship, or even sole conservatorship.

Contact an Austin Child Custody Attorney

If you are unmarried and have a child, you should take legal action as soon as possible to secure your parental rights and protect your child’s best interests. The Austin, TX family law attorneys at Powers and Kerr, PLLC, can help you establish legal parentage and petition for a fair and appropriate custody arrangement. Contact us today for a consultation by calling 512-610-6199.





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