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Do unmarried Texas fathers automatically have parental rights?

Say that you and your significant other decide to start a family without getting married. You both agree that you, as the father, will have unlimited parental rights.

Two years later, your relationship is over, and you are having trouble gaining access to your child. Does your verbal agreement with your ex give you parental rights?

Unmarried dads must win their parental rights

It seems unfair, but your verbal agreement is worth nothing in the eyes of the law. The only option if your co-parent refuses visitation is to establish legal paternity.

In Texas, you can accomplish this goal in three different ways.

  1. You and your co-parent sign a legal document called an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP). This method requires cooperation between the parents, but you can do it during pregnancy or after the child is born.
  2. The parents and a judge sign a court document containing the father’s identity (you). It will also detail your agreed-upon custody, visitation and support rights. This method also requires parental cooperation.
  3. A court resolves the matter if you and the other parent disagree over who fathered the child. You will probably need to undergo a DNA test to prove you are the father, but you will gain the legal right to spend time with your child via a court order.

When unmarried relationships go sour, fathers stand to lose out on substantial portions of their children’s lives. Even worse, your kids will lose the many benefits forming close bonds with each parent provides.

If you have concerns about losing access to your kids, seek legal guidance and learn more about your rights as a Texas father.

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