Do unmarried fathers have parental rights?

Whether you had one date or are in a long-term, committed relationship, learning that you are becoming a father is a life-changing moment. You have many decisions to make and practical matters to consider. You may want to be deeply involved in the child's upbringing or have as little contact as possible. You will also have to consider the mother's desires for your involvement with the child.

Each situation is unique, and when weighing the factors and options, you will have to think of a lifetime of consequences. Whatever your circumstances, it is wise to learn and understand your rights under Texas law.

Proving you are the father

The law presumes that a married man is the father of his wife's children. He shares the legal rights and responsibilities for raising, supporting, and bonding with the children. If you are not married to the child's mother, you have no rights, though you may be responsible for financial support. The child's mother can make all the legal decisions and has complete authority over raising the child. Nevertheless, depending on the circumstances, you may be able to claim certain rights through the proper legal channels.

Unless both you and the mother concede to this fact, your first step is to determine through a paternity test whether you are the biological father of the child. Even if the mother puts your name on the child's birth certificate, the sooner you establish that you are the father, the better your chances of obtaining parenting time rights that will help you form a lasting bond with the child.

Proving you are not the father

On the other hand, if a woman is claiming you are the father of her child and is asking for financial support, you may have other issues to deal with. Your circumstances may not allow you to take on the responsibility of a child, especially if you doubt your paternity. Establishing that you are not the biological father may relieve you of that financial obligation, but it also means you will have no other parenting rights.

Whether you are seeking equal parenting time, trying to prevent the mother from adopting your baby or hoping to avoid child support obligations, the legal process for unmarried fathers can be complex and confusing. You may have to fight for your rights as a father as well as establishing support payments that are reasonable and fair under Texas law. Having a legal advocate with strong experience in father's rights may prove advantageous.

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