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Child Custody for Unmarried Parents in McKinney, TX
Even for unmarried parents who are living together, the birth of a child creates legal issues that do not apply within the confines of a traditional marriage. Under Texas law, an unmarried mother receives exclusive custody rights at childbirth. This does not change if the father is listed on the child’s birth certificate. In order to obtain parental rights, the father must establish paternity and obtain a formal court order recognizing his parentage of the child. Contact our McKinney child custody lawyers today for help with your specific issues.
Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) for Unmarried Parents
The simplest way for an unmarried father to obtain parental rights is through the filing of an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP). This is a legal form that requires both parents’ signatures and that, once filed, establishes the father’s legal rights as a parent. As stated on the Texas Attorney General’s website:
“The Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) is for parents who are not married to each other. When both the biological father and the mother sign the AOP form, it becomes a legal finding of paternity. The biological father becomes the legal father and has all the rights and duties of a parent, including his name being placed on the birth certificate. Parents who would like to establish paternity for their child through the AOP process must seek the assistance of an AOP certified entity.”
Filing an AOP allows unmarried parents to establish parenting rights on par with those of married parents without the costs and burdens of a standard paternity proceeding.
Establishing Paternity and Custody Out of Wedlock
In situations where one or both parents are unwilling to sign an AOP, a paternity test is necessary to establish the biological father’s rights and obligations. The actual paternity test is performed using a cheek swab; and, if necessary, an unmarried mother can file a petition for paternity testing in court.
Once the father’s parentage has been established, the parents can establish custody and visitation rights based upon the best interests of the child. While this is a necessary step for unmarried parents who are not living together, it can be important for cohabitating couples as well. Establishing legal custody helps ensure that the father will be able to make decisions on the child’s behalf in the mother’s absence, and it can help prevent a contentious custody battle in the event of a later separation.
As with most family-related legal issues, establishing unmarried parents’ custody rights is a task that is best handled sooner rather than later. It provides much-needed certainty for everyone involved, and it is an important step toward providing a newborn child the life he or she deserves. Child custody determinations can impact parents’ child support obligations as well (now or in the future), and there are legal methods available for resolving parenting-related issues amicably and cost-effectively.
Contact Our McKinney Child Custody Lawyers to Learn More
For more information about AOPs, paternity testing, or unmarried parents’ custody rights in Texas, please contact our McKinney law offices to schedule a complimentary initial consultation. To speak with our experienced child custody lawyers in confidence, call (214) 726-1450 or request an appointment online today.