If you father a child outside of marriage, you must take legal steps to retain the right to a relationship with your child. Texas agrees that both parents should take part in raising a child as long as that arrangement serves the child’s best interests.
If you face this situation and want to learn more about your right to custody and visitation, review the laws about paternity in Texas.
The paternity process
If you and the child’s mother agree that you are the child’s biological father, you can both sign the state’s Acknowledgement of Paternity form. If the mother will not sign or you are not sure if you are the father, you can request help from the Texas Child Support Division.
After opening this type of case, the state will require a DNA paternity test. If you are the father, Texas or the mother may pursue legal child support. You can also file a request for custody and visitation with your child.
Available parental rights
Unmarried fathers must pursue paternity right away. Without legal standing, you cannot take custody if the mother loses custody or decides to give the baby up for adoption. The judge can make decisions about your child without your input.
Conversely, if you declare legal paternity, you have the right to participate in your child’s life in a meaningful way. You can take part in important decisions about his or her education, religion and upbringing. You can also spend time with your child by asking the court for regular visitation or shared custody.
Taking these steps preserves your right to remain a father throughout your child’s life.