Discussions about shared custody often focus on divorcing married couples. However, there is no prerequisite that requires people to get married or they have children together. It has become quite common for people to start families without marrying first.
The only real concern with this choice is the impact that it may have on the father’s rights if the relationship between him and the mother eventually ends. As an unmarried father in Texas, you can have all of the same rights as a married father or a mother. Still, you may have to take a few extra steps to assert those rights.
Have you established paternity?
The biggest question for an unmarried father is whether or not he has officially established paternity with the state. You have to legally assert yourself as the father before you can ask the Texas family courts to grant you visitation or parenting time.
You could establish paternity at the time of a child’s birth by filling out paperwork with the mother to add your name to the birth certificate. She can also agree to voluntarily fill out this paperwork at any time while your child is still a minor.
You could also establish paternity without the mother’s support by going through the courts and requesting genetic testing. Genetic testing can establish paternity with a very small margin of error. Only after you have legally established paternity will you be able to ask for shared custody of your children.
Fathers have equal rights under Texas law
Once you have established that you are the father of your child, you have the same rights as any other parent in Texas, including the mother of your child. You can ask for visitation or shared custody. You will also have the parental responsibilities that come with those rights, including the obligation to provide support for your children.
Establishing paternity at the time a child comes into this world can be a way for a father to protect himself and his relationship with that child in case anything ever goes wrong in the relationship he has with the mother. Knowing your rights as an unmarried father in Texas will make you a better dad.