When you have a child as an unmarried father, Texas does not automatically consider you the legal father. Taking steps to obtain legal paternity can preserve your relationship with your child.
Learn more about establishing paternity and asking for visitation when you have a child in Texas.
The paternity process
When you and the child’s mother agree that you are the father, you can both sign the state’s Acknowledgement of Paternity form. If either parent has doubts about paternity, you should not sign this binding legal document.
In this case, ask for help from the Texas Child Support Division. You can request a legal determination of paternity as well as file a petition for custody and visitation. The court will order a DNA test and issue an order of paternity if you are the biological father.
Available parental rights
You can request both legal and physical custody once you have a paternity order in place. Legal custody is the right to make important decisions about how you will raise your child, like where he or she will go to school, get medical care and attend worship.
Physical custody describes the time your child spends in your care. Some parents share equal physical custody. In other cases, one parent has primary physical custody and the other has visitation.
You can lose parental rights if you pose a danger to the child’s well-being because of a history of domestic violence or neglect. Otherwise, Texas supports your right to have a relationship with your child regardless of your relationship with his or her mother. The court will also create a child support order so you can share financial responsibility with the child’s mother.