These days, it’s increasingly common for children to be born to unmarried parents. As a result of this trend, many Texas parents have legal questions regarding the rights and responsibilities of unwed fathers. If you’re an unmarried mother or father to be, or if your child has already been born, you probably want to know too.
Does an Unmarried Father Have Parental Rights?
In every state, including Texas, if a child is born and the parents aren’t married at the time of birth, the biological father has zero rights and responsibilities toward his child unless paternity is legally established. A Texas court cannot issue orders for child support or child custody until paternity is established.
Establishing Paternity in Texas
Paternity means “legal fatherhood,” and establishing paternity is one of the most important steps that unwed mothers and fathers can take in regard to child custody and child support matters. Remember, if parents are not married, child support cannot be ordered, and a father cannot ask the court for custody or visitation.
If the parents do not have any doubts about paternity, they can both voluntarily sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) form shortly after the child’s birth at the hospital. But, if either parent has any doubts about paternity, they should ask the court for a paternity test (DNA test), which is performed after the child’s birth.
Paternity tests are very simple – the presumed father and child have their cheeks swabbed at a clinic or in court. DNA tests are 99% accurate, and results are typically available between 4 and 6 weeks after the test is performed. Once paternity is officially confirmed (established) by the court, orders for child support and child custody can be issued.
If you’re an unmarried parent who needs assistance with a paternity, child custody or child support matter, please contact our Richmond family law firm.