Raising a child as an unmarried parent can be difficult. Your unborn child’s mother may be in a situation that leads her to believe your child would be better off with another family. But as the father, do you have a say in the matter?
According to the Texas Uniform Parentage Act, there is a process in place for you to secure and assert your parental rights.
Unmarried fathers’ rights
The law only presumes a man is the father if he is married to the mother at the time of the birth. So, you are not automatically a legal father with parental rights, even if you know without a doubt that you are the biological father.
Acknowledgement of paternity
If the mother cooperates, and both of you sign the acknowledgement of paternity and file it with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit, then you become the presumed father. At that point, you have full parental rights.
Registration for notification
What if the mother says she does not want you to have legal rights to your child? In this case, you can file the Notice of Intent to Claim Paternity form with the Texas Registry of Paternity. You can do this before your child’s birth, but no later than the 31st day after your child’s birth. This will entitle you to notification if the child’s mother goes ahead with a proceeding for adoption or termination of parental rights.
Establishment of paternity
That form does not make you the legal father, but it does stop the proceeding and give you the chance to establish paternity. If the mother is not cooperative, you can request a court-ordered DNA test that confirms your paternity and allows you to legally become the father.
If the mother decides not to give up her parental rights, you will need to create a conservatorship and visitation plan, which is the term Texas uses to refer to custody.