For unmarried parents in Texas, child custody laws are rather complex when compared to those for married individuals. The process of seeking child custody is harder, and it takes some extra work to prove paternity to the court.
Texas laws automatically award custody of a child to the mother when the parents are not married.
Child custody laws in Texas heavily favor the mother, granting both legal and physical custody of a child in the event unmarried parents are divorcing or looking to separate. If legal paternity is already in place for the father, this custody arrangement is not final. If the father’s name appears on the child’s birth certificate, the father received limited rights concerning the child.
An unmarried mother, so long as legal paternity is not in place, is in total control of decision-making for the child. She can decide whether or not the father has access to the child or can communicate with the child. The mother is also free to relocate out of state with the child without notifying the father. However, without legal recognizing the father, the mother does not receive child support from him.
An unmarried father must establish legal paternity to have any rights concerning the custody of a child. In addition to his name on the birth certificate, both parents must sign an acknowledgment of paternity and have proof through genetic testing.
With legal paternity in place, an unmarried father can seek conservatorship of a child. The court may award custody according to a number of factors.