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Colvin, Saenz, Rodriguez & Kennamer, L.L.P.
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Figuring Out Custody Issues When Two Parents Are Unmarried


As family law attorneys who serve clients here in Texas, we not only receive questions from clients who know that they want to pursue a divorce, but also from clients who are unsure about what they should do; specifically, if they should leave the father of their child, and how they should prepare beforehand in case the time comes when they need to.

First and foremost, if there is child abuse or domestic violence involved in a relationship, it is crucial that you get help right away and prioritize both your protection and the protection of your child. Victims need to be protected and should pursue an order of protection.

However, if abuse is not an issue in the relationship, but there are concerns about potential separation in the future and how this might affect child custody, especially if one person wants to move out of state, a family law attorney can help provide clients with an idea what they can expect.

The Default Law in Texas for Unmarried Parents & Establishing Paternity

In Texas, as in a number of other states, if a child’s parents are unmarried, the mother automatically has both legal and physical custody over the child and the father has very limited rights until he officially establishes paternity, even if the father’s name is listed on the child’s birth certificate.  This is contrary to a married couple, where both automatically share custody of the child.

In order to establish paternity, both parents can sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) or either parent can obtain a court order naming the legal father by filing a lawsuit in court, hiring an attorney, or through the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division. Note that if the child’s father files for custody in court, the court will provide each parent with an equal opportunity in terms of custody.

Being charged with child abduction is usually only the case if there is a custody order in place, an active custody case pending, the child is being concealed from the other parent, the parents are married, and/or if the father’s paternity has been legally established. However, while the mother is the only legal guardian of the child if both parents are unmarried and the father has not established paternity or exerted rights over the child via court order, it is still advisable for the mother to work with an attorney if she is interested in relocating in order to ensure that all of the legal precautions necessary have been taken so that there is no risk of sanctions or negative repercussions coming from the court. It is the public policy of the state of Texas that children have frequent and continuing contact with parents as long as they have demonstrated that they have the ability to act in the best interest of the child, which is the primary consideration of the court in determining custody.

Contact Our Brownsville Family Attorneys

With a solid background in family law litigation, the Brownsville family attorneys of Colvin, Saenz, Rodriguez & Kennamer, L.L.P. provide experienced, skilled, focused advice, and representation to all clients who have family law-related questions. Contact us today to find out how we can help.


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