Last Updated on October 9, 2021 by Melody McDonald
A father’s rights in Texas are laid out in the Family Code. There are a number of ways a man can be considered the father of a child. He may be presumed the father if he was married to the mother at the time the child was born. He can be determined the father through a paternity proceeding or can be legally recognized through an Acknowledgment of Paternity. He can also be an adoptive father.
In many cases, fathers feel that mothers have almost total control when it comes to their children in terms of custody, visitation, decision-making, and other matters. A father is a parent just as a mother is, and the fact that a marriage or relationship has ended does not change that. The key to a father’s rights in Texas is establishing the paternity of the father.
Establishing a Father’s Rights in Texas
In the state of Texas, in specific circumstances, there is a presumption that a man is the father of a child – this is referred to as the presumption of paternity.
When a man qualifies as a presumed father, the legal rights as a parent are given automatically. Texas Family Code Sec. 160.204 outlines how the presumption of paternity is determined.
Paternity is presumed when a child is born to a married couple, or fewer than 301 days after ending the marriage. In the event a child was born prior to a couple marrying, presumption of paternity applies if the father:
- Voluntarily asserts his paternity and files a record with the Texas bureau of vital statistics;
- Is named as the father on the birth certificate; or
- In writing, promises to take on the responsibilities of the child as his own
Paternity is presumed when a couple never marries if the father:
- Lived in the same household with the child continuously during the child’s first two years of life and
- Expressed the child as his own to others
When paternity is not presumed it may be necessary to take a paternity test, or to execute an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form which must be signed by both mother and father.
A Father’s Right to Child Custody or Conservatorship
Texas refers to child custody as conservatorship. In conservatorship, as in child custody, either parent may be given primary custody of a child or children. It is often possible for parents to reach an agreement regarding parenting time, where the child will reside, whether one parent or the other will be the sole conservator, or conservatorship will be shared, among other matters.
In the past, it was often assumed that the mother of a child would be granted sole custody, however, parenting has changed, and the laws have changed as well. In fact, it is not uncommon today for a father to be the sole conservator.
It is important to be aware of your legal rights as a father to maximize visitation and custody. One small mistake could affect your parental rights. Feel free to contact Varghese Summersett Family Law Group for answers to questions regarding a father’s rights in Texas and conservatorship.
Visitation For Noncustodial Fathers
According to the Texas Attorney General, there are visitation guidelines for both noncustodial parents who live within 100 miles and those living more than 100 miles apart. While parents can certainly agree on more visitation time, it is important for fathers to understand their rights.
Visitation for noncustodial parents who live with 100 miles of each other:
- First, third, and fifth weekends of each month
- Every Thursday evening;
- 30 days during summer school break
- Alternating holidays (for instance every other Christmas)
More than 100 miles apart:
- No Thursday evening visitation
- Each spring break and 42 days (6 weeks) during summer vacation
- Alternating holidays
- One weekend each month (or may remain first, third, and fifth if parents agree)
What Texas Courts Consider when Making Custody and Visitation Decisions
The court always keeps the best interests of the child in mind when making decisions. Some of the factors considered include:
- The child’s desires
- Parenting abilities of both parents
- The child’s current and future physical and emotional needs
- Plans for the child
- Home living environment
- Availability of programs to help parents in advancing the child’s best interest
- Whether the child is at risk of physical or emotional danger at present, and in the future
Texas courts also consider each parent in terms of their behavior, habits, routines, relationship with the child (good or bad), and other things in deciding what is best for the child.
Establishing Paternity through DNA
As mentioned earlier, there are two ways unwed fathers can establish paternity – by signing an AOP form, or through a paternity test which is court-ordered. When a paternity test is ordered, it proves or disproves paternity through DNA. This DNA test is performed following the birth of the child and is simple. Both the baby and the presumed father have the inside of their cheeks swabbed. After swabbing, it generally takes about 4 to 6 weeks for results to come in. Until paternity is proven by the DNA test (which are 99 percent accurate), unwed fathers have no rights. If test results confirm paternity, courts can begin making orders for child support, child custody, etc.
Learn More About Fathers Rights in Texas
As a father, you want what is best for your child. Whether the problem is related to visitation, child custody, or other issues that involve your child, we are here to help. If you’re facing an issue with father’s rights in North Texas, call to set up a consultation at (817) 900-3220.