When a married woman gives birth, not only does the law assume the woman’s husband is the child’s biological and legal father, but the woman’s husband has the same rights (legal and physical custody) to his child as the mother. But what if the mother is not married? Does she still share rights with the child’s biological father?
When an unmarried woman has a baby, she automatically has sole legal and physical custody of her child without going to court. Under the law, the father has no rights or responsibilities unless paternity is legally established. The above is true assuming the mother was unmarried at the time of the child’s birth, and there are no child custody or visitation orders in effect.
Unmarried mothers (without custody orders in place) in Texas have the sole right to:
- Decide who sees their child, when, and for how long
- Decide who watches the child
- Decide where the child shall live
- Decide if the father can see his child
- Decide on the child’s medical care
- Apply for public benefits on the child’s behalf
While an unmarried mother has sole legal and physical custody before paternity is established, that doesn’t mean child custody can’t change in the future, because it can. If the father decides he wants to be in the child’s life, paternity will have to be established. This is done by both parents voluntarily signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form, or through a court-ordered paternity (DNA) test.
Once paternity is confirmed, the family courts can proceed and issue court orders for child support, child custody, and visitation.
A Few Words of Advice for Unmarried Moms
If you’re an unmarried mother and the father wants to be in his child’s life, we recommend allowing him reasonable visitation, even if a court has yet to issue a child custody order. However, if you’re not sure about paternity or if you have concerns about your child’s safety and well-being if the father is allowed visits, you should definitely seek legal advice before making any decisions that you could later regret.
Whether you’re an unwmarried mother or father, we can help. We invite you to contact the Law Firm of Johnson & Gaskill PLLC at (832) 210-1698.