Are Child Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents Different From Others?

When parents divorce, there’s a standard procedure for deciding who the child will live with and who will make parental decisions. If the parents were never married, however, the rules are murkier. If you’re a father who’s concerned about child custody laws for unmarried parents, the first step is establishing paternity.

Is your name on the child’s birth certificate? Establishing paternity right after birth is best, but it’s not the only way. If the mother will sign an affidavit affirming that you are the child’s father, that’s great. If not, you’ll have to pay for a paternity test. For most dads, that means hiring a family lawyer to help.

Once you’ve established paternity, it’s common for the courts to assign joint custody and joint-managing conservatorship. That means both parties will have continued access to the child, and both will have a say in important decisions like education, religious training, extra-curricular activities, where the child will live, and medical, dental, and mental health care.

Now for the bad news about child custody laws for unmarried parents. Unless there’s a court order in place, the mother can decide to terminate the father’s visitation and/or conservatorship (including any aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. on his side). She can even move the child out of state without notifying the father. That’s why establishing paternity and getting a court order affirming your rights is important.

The intricacies of child custody laws for unmarried parents may already have you worried. Hiring a family law attorney can help you navigate the process and get you the result you want. While every case is different, the right lawyer will do everything they can to help the courts see your side. In most cases, Texas courts believe that it’s best for children to have both parents in their life.

Need help with your case? Still have questions about child custody laws for unmarried parents? Call an experienced family law attorney.

Jennifer Espronceda is a passionate advocate for families and strives to find a positive resolution for her clients. To make an appointment for a consultation, call 210-504-1514 or use this contact form.

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