More children now than ever before are living with unmarried parents. In fact, the United States has the world’s highest rate of children living in a single-parent home. While child custody matters are straightforward for married parents, they can get more complicated for unmarried parents. Questions that arise for unmarried parents about child custody may include the following:

  • Who Gets Child Custody?
  • Who Gets Visitation Rights?
  • Does Paternity Need To Be Established?
  • How Can An Unmarried Father Gain Child Custody?

Today, we will go over these questions and more to shed some light on unmarried parents’ rights and child custody in the state of Texas.

Who Is Granted Child Custody If the Parents Are Unmarried?

In Texas, the mother of the child is automatically granted both legal and physical custody when she is in a relationship with another individual who is not her spouse. This is true even if her partner’s name is on the child’s birth certificate.

How Can a Father Obtain Parental Rights?

A father who would like to have parental rights has to establish paternity first. Doing so ensures he can have custody and visitation rights. You can establish paternity by signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP), which is a legal document stating that the father and mother acknowledge paternity. You could also file for paternity in court, which requires the alleged father to take a DNA test.

After this has been established, the father will need to establish custody rights through a court order.

What Kind of Custody Orders Are Available To Unmarried Couples?

Unmarried parents must have a court order in place that address all components of a custody arrangement. These components are as follows:


Conservatorship is the legal term for parents. This aspect of a custody arrangement determines matters such as who will be granted legal and physical (or both) custody of a child and where the child will reside.

Rights & Duties

These are actions that a parent or both parents will be responsible for on behalf of their child. This might include medical, dental, education, and/or psychological decisions.

Possession & Access

This refers to the time spent with your child and is also known as visitation. Visitation time and a parenting plan will also need to be addressed.

Unmarried parents who do not have a child custody arrangement in place should consult with an experienced attorney. Even if their relationship is amicable, it would be beneficial to ensure that the child’s needs and interests will be protected both now and in the future.

What Other Matters Does An Unmarried Couple Need To Address?

An unmarried couple may also want to create a parenting plan that is in their child’s best interests. You can speak with a lawyer about this or establish one yourself. It is best to consider important holidays, birthdays, and school breaks when doing so.

Protecting The Rights Of Unmarried Parents In Texas

How you set up child custody and visitation will affect your family dynamic for years to come. If you are seeking assistance regarding these matters as an unmarried couple, do not hesitate to reach out to our firm. We deliver a results-driven approach and are committed to helping keep families together.

Secure a consultation with Hembree Bell Law Firm today and contact us online or call us via (737) 265-7656.

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