Learning More about Custody Laws in Texas for Unmarried Parents

POSTED IN Family law ON August 30, 2023

When you and your significant other decide to break things off, it will undoubtedly impact the child you share with your future ex. If you have a child but are not married to your ex-partner, you may naturally be concerned about the child custody laws in Texas for unmarried people. Unmarried people still have the same legal obligations to their children, and whether you are married or not, the court can still issue orders regarding your children. Custody cases involving unmarried parents, however, can prove more complex than child custody cases between divorcing parents.

Following a divorce, both parents generally have equal rights to their children, but when a couple is unmarried and separates, the father can only seek the paternal right to custody by establishing paternity.

With over 75 years of experience in family law cases, our team of skilled attorneys at Mims Ballew Hollingsworth | Forth Worth Family Law is dedicated to providing our clients with the highest quality of legal representation. Our lawyers possess a deep understanding of the complexities involved in child custody cases for unmarried parents and are prepared to help you make informed decisions regarding your child’s future.

Learning More about Custody Laws in Texas for Unmarried Parents

Paternity is assumed in child custody cases where the parents are married to each other. If a child’s parents are unmarried, the mother automatically has both physical and legal custody rights over the child. Even when the father’s name appears on the birth certificate, he has extremely limited rights until paternity has been established. Until an unmarried father receives legal recognition as the child’s father, the child’s mother has the right to make all the decisions for the child, including if and when the child visits the father. The mother also has the right to move out of state without notifying the father.

Establishing Paternity

Paternity is assumed in child custody cases where the parents are married to each other. If a child’s parents are unmarried, the mother automatically has both physical and legal custody rights over the child. Even when the father’s name appears on the birth certificate, he has extremely limited rights until paternity has been established. Until an unmarried father receives legal recognition as the child’s father, the child’s mother has the right to make all the decisions for the child, including if and when the child visits the father. The mother also has the right to move out of state without notifying the father.

Some examples of parenting rights and duties addressed by family courts in parenting plans include:

  • The right to confer with the other parent before making a decision concerning the welfare of the child.
  • The duty to inform the other parent of the child of significant information concerning the welfare of the child in a timely manner.
  • The right to receive information concerning the welfare of the child.
  • The duty to care for, control, protect, and reasonably discipline the child
  • The right to consent to psychiatric and psychological treatment.
  • The duty to support and provide the child with clothing, food, shelter, medical, and dental care.
  • The right to access medical, dental, psychological, and educational records.
  • The right to direct moral and religious training of the child.
  • The duty to make periodic child-support payments.
  • The right to receive payments for the support of the child and disburse the funds for their benefit.

Sole Managing Conservatorship (SMC)

In a sole managing conservatorship, the parent makes the decisions about where the child will live, their health, education, and other major aspects of their life. In these arrangements, the sole managing conservator usually receives child support from the non-custodial parent.

In cases where custody is awarded on a sole basis, possessory conservatorship generally applies, and the non-custodial parent is referred to as the “possessory conservator.” If you wish to be the sole managing conservator, you will need to prove that this arrangement is in your child’s best interests, and you should also be prepared to potentially prove that the other parent should not be allowed to make decisions for the child.