Did you know that in 2017, more than one-third of all U.S. children lived with parents who were unmarried? This has grown significantly in the last several decades.

Unmarried parents in Texas face many challenges when seeking custody of their children. These challenges differ from the challenges that married parents will face when going through a divorce. For these reasons, it is important to have an experienced and skilled Houston child custody attorney on your side throughout the legal process.

It is important to understand that the state of Texas believes that both parents are essential to a child’s well-being. As such, custody agreements that involve both parents are favored by the courts.

However, when two parents are unmarried, the mother automatically has legal and physical custody of that child. This occurs, even when the father is named on the birth certificate. If a father wishes to gain the ability to care for their child or make legal decisions for their child, they must first establish paternity.

Establishing Paternity in Texas

Establishing paternity means that you must show the courts that you are the child’s biological father. This can be done in two different ways:

  1. Signed Acknowledgement of Paternity. If both parents agree on the father’s identity, they can sign this form to show the state their agreement.
  2. DNA Test. When one person contests parentage, the father must then get a DNA test to prove that they are the child’s father. If the mother refuses to allow the child to take a DNA test, the father will need a court order.

Once paternity is established, an experienced Houston child custody attorney can help the father fight for their parental rights in court. The courts will then consider what is in the child’s best interest and award both legal and physical custody to either the mother, the father or jointly to both.

It is important for both parents to know that until paternity is established, the father has no legal recognition. This means that the father cannot have custody of the child. It also means that mothers cannot collect child support from the father during this time. As such, mothers often turn to Houston child custody lawyers to help them establish paternity so that they can begin collecting the support they need to raise their child.

Conservatorship for Unmarried Parents

When paternity is established, a father may then seek conservatorship of the child just like a married father. This is similar to custody.

There are three types of conservators the court may decide to name the father.

  1. Joint managing conservator. This is when both parents have control over decisions regarding the child.
  2. Sole managing conservator. This is when just one parent has custody of the child.
  3. Possessory conservator. This is when one parent has visitation rights but no authority to make any decisions for the child’s well-being.

Contact Our Experienced Houston Child Custody Attorneys Today

If you are an unmarried couple in Houston, you need a Houston child custody lawyer on your side. At Roger G. Jain & Associates, P.C., our Houston attorneys will help you protect you and your parenting rights — no matter what your situation may be. We can navigate complex family law issues in Texas with efficiency and ease. Call us today at 713-981-0600 or fill out our confidential contact form. We are here to help you through this difficult time.