Can Unmarried Fathers Obtain Custody?
Texas family law is gender-neutral—at least, it in theory. Courts presume that children do better when both parents are involved in their lives. But there are some big holes in the law and its application that can leave certain fathers at a disadvantage when it comes to obtaining child custody and visitation.
Unmarried Fathers Must Secure Their Rights
Unmarried fathers can find themselves in especially challenging positions. Under Texas law, unmarried fathers have no right to be in their children’s lives without taking legal action.
The two parents may voluntarily formalize the father’s position by naming him as the father on the child’s birth certificate. They must also sign an acknowledgement of paternity. Doing so grants the father full paternal rights.
If one of the two parties refuses to sign the voluntary acknowledgement of paternity, the man also can petition the court by submitting to a paternity test, a non-invasive mouth swab that is quite accurate. Once the court issues an order naming them as the father, the man can then seek conservatorship and possession (also known as custody and visitation).
The Affect of Lack of Paternity on Other Family Members
Unmarried fathers are not the only parties affected. The father’s parents, grandparents, siblings and other relatives have no legal rights to the child. Only when the court declares the man the father can other interested parties seek the right to be in a child’s life.
Married Dads Who Divorce Can Also Have Problems
Problems with father’s rights usually arise in the context of contested divorces. Courts prefer parents to work out matters for themselves and submit the agreed-upon custody and visitation arrangements to the court. Parents, especially fathers, who litigate custody or visitation matters in court could find themselves fighting an uphill battle in some jurisdictions and some courtrooms, even though the law is clear. Consequently, fathers often need lawyers who will be their strong advocate in court.
Get Help for Your Paternity & Custody Concerns Today
Sadly, fathers often need to meet a higher standard to demonstrate their suitability as parents. Moreover, fathers appear to be victims of parental alienation campaigns more frequently, making it less like that they will be seen as good parents.
If you are an unwed father and you’d like to affirm your relationship, get help. Give yourself your best shot at gaining the access and relationship you deserve with your child. Speak with a lawyer today.