If you are a father in Texas and are unmarried, it is not unreasonable that you may be incredibly concerned about your rights. It is imperative to properly work through the court system to establish your rights as a parent. Even if you are currently involved with your child, disagreements, life changes, or another situation can threaten your ability to visit with your child, have custody, and participate in the decisions that will impact your child’s life.
The bottom line is that Texas does not recognize you as a legal parent, and legal rights are not granted until paternity has been established. There are three ways for paternity to be founded.
- Voluntary establishment through signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP)
- Agreed Paternal Order
- Court-ordered paternity testing
Steps to Take to Establish Parental Rights in Texas
Even in amicable relationships, working with an Austin paternity lawyer can make establishing parental rights easier and ensure that the proper steps are taken to prevent any interruption to critical time with your child. Ultimately, following the appropriate legal steps is the only way to ensure your rights as a father are intact.
If you are unsure of your paternity or the other parent is denying paternity, filing a paternity case will be the first step. This process allows for a judge to establish:
- Custody orders
- Visitation schedules
- Child support
- Medical support
Establishing paternity is essential to exercising your rights as a father.
Acknowledgment of Paternity
Another way to ensure your rights as an unmarried father in Texas is for you and the other parent to sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity, a legal document establishing paternity. This acknowledgment allows you to forgo a paternity order and pursue a suit affecting parent-child relationships (SAPCR).
Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationships (SAPCR)
While signing a birth certificate establishes a father’s responsibility for paying child support, a SAPCR establishes a relationship with your child. These legal actions allow custody to be put in place through a court order, providing for regular visitation, holidays, and weekend time.
Additionally, as the father, you have the right to be made aware of other events in your child’s life you want to participate in, such as kindergarten graduations.
A paternity action also protects a child in case of the other parent’s death or if incapacitation prevents the parent from caring for a child.
How an SAPCR Works
When parents can work together, visitation schedules are more easily established. But courts can intervene when there is no cooperation, appointing an investigating social worker to the relationship to make recommendations.
Younger children may require more maternal time initially, and stair-step visitations are often ordered, increasing the visitation over time and allowing for supervised visits. As a child becomes less dependent on the mother or primary parent, the father’s visitation time grows, permitting an equal share of time with the child. The courts will look at all factors that affect a child’s stability when making these decisions.
A father will want to ensure that his relationship with the child is presented fairly. Child custody and paternity cases can be highly charged and emotionally challenging. Allowing an Austin child custody attorney to serve as a representative enables you to step back from situations that can threaten your rights as a parent.
Work with a Compassionate Austin Paternity Attorney
Evans Family Law Group understands your desire to be an involved father and wants to make that happen for you and your child. Establishing paternity may feel daunting, but we are here to help you navigate the legal process and begin with a free consultation.