For married couples, the birth of a child only comes with unknowns on the future and not any custody concerns.
For unmarried parents, the journey may start with questions regarding custody. Considering that births to unmarried women accounted for 40% of births in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many people face this circumstance and likely have questions.
1. What rights does the mother have?
In Texas, any unmarried mother automatically has legal custody rights to the new child. That happens regardless of whether the birth certificate includes a father’s name or not.
2. What rights does a father have?
An unmarried father does not necessarily file for custody from the start. Instead, he must legally prove his fatherhood. Prior to any custody arrangements, paternity must get established. This also applies whether the father wants custody or not. The courts may require involuntary paternity tests to establish child support.
3. What custody options do unmarried parents have?
Depending on the situation, some unmarried parents may never need to go to court for custody arrangements. If the couple lives together or remains on good terms, they can work together to develop an informal co-parenting plan. In some cases, that type of arrangement simply will not work. When parents cannot agree, they will need to go to the courts for a mediated custody arrangement.
During that process, many things will factor in. Both parents have the right to seek full custody. The courts will determine the type of conservatorship, either joint or sole.