The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a family as a basic societal unit traditionally made up of two married parents. However, families are not always traditional, and they may include a mix of people and pets.
When it comes to divorce and separation, Texas applies child custody rules to parents without considering their marital status at the child’s birth. If a relationship ends, both parents must provide a safe and stable environment for their children. This responsibility involves unmarried parents creating a custody plan when they separate.
Delineating parental rights
Parents share equal rights and duties over their children, irrespective of their marital status at the child’s birth. The law presumes that the mother has sole custody if the parents are not married at the time of the child’s birth, but this changes once the father legally establishes paternity. After establishing paternity, the father can request custody or visitation rights.
Creating a custody plan
A custody plan, often referred to as a parenting plan, is critical for giving the child a structured, predictable environment. The plan details the child’s living arrangements, visitation schedules and decision-making guidelines concerning matters like education and health care.
Parents should aim to reach an agreement independently, keeping their child’s best interests at heart. If an agreement remains elusive, the court will step in and make a decision in the child’s best interest. A legally binding custody plan offers clarity and consistency for the child and the parents. It also reduces potential conflict and confusion in the future.
Moving forward, the family may look different for both the parents and children. This is why it is important to develop a comprehensive and fair custody plan to prioritize the child’s best interests at all times, even with unmarried parents.