Families come in all different shapes and sizes. According to the most recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 40 percent of the children in Texas are born to unmarried parents.

If you and your partner are not married, there are some unique issues that will impact your child custody case. It is important that you have a basic understanding of how the Texas custody laws can impact the rights of unmarried parents.

In this article, our compassionate Austin child custody lawyer highlights the most important things that unmarried parents need to know about the child custody laws in Texas. If you are an unmarried mother or unmarried father, and you have any questions or any concerns about child custody or child visitation, please do not hesitate to contact our legal team today to arrange a fully confidential consultation.

Child Custody and Unmarried Parents: Paternity Must Be Resolved

In child custody cases involving unmarried parents, the first issue that must be addressed is paternity. When parents are married at the time of a birth, paternity is simply assumed as a matter of law. If no action is taken, then a man will become the legal father of his wife’s child. No documentation needs to be filled out and no forms need to be submitted.

However, with unmarried parents, paternity is not assumed. It does not matter how long the romantic relationship has lasted; parental rights and parental obligations will not be automatically bestowed on the father. In order for parental rights, such as the ability to obtain custody or visitation, or parental duties, such as the obligation to provide child support, to be established, action must be taken by the parents.

In Texas, there are two basic ways for unmarried parents to establish paternity. First, both parents can sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity (AOP). When this happens, the father will be granted paternity. This is the best option if there is no dispute over who is the father of the child. The second option involves a petition to adjudicate parentage. In other words, the paternity case will go to a family law court. Typically, this is necessary if there is a dispute over paternity. In some cases, a Texas court will even order genetic testing to resolve the dispute.

About the Author
Ben Carrasco is a highly skilled family law attorney based in Austin, Texas, known for his extensive expertise in family law and business litigation. While his primary focus is family law, Ben brings a wealth of experience in litigating diverse business disputes, ranging from breach of contract and collections to business torts, fraud, and real estate matters. In his family law practice, Ben navigates all aspects of the field, including divorce, child custody, support, property division, and more, offering clients expert guidance throughout the litigation process. His legal journey began in complex commercial litigation, initially with a global law firm and later with a prominent Austin-based firm. However, driven by a desire to make a direct impact on people's lives and embrace the human element of the law, Ben transitioned to family law, a decision that has proven to be deeply rewarding. A proud Austin native with roots in California, Ben completed his undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, before earning his law degree at Stanford Law School, where he excelled in legal writing and served as an associate editor of the Stanford Law and Policy Review.