Mothers who are not married, or single mothers, are automatically the sole legal and physical custodians of an infant at birth in Texas. According to the Uniform Parentage Act, Chapter 160 of Texas Code, the rights as a mother can also be established by adoption or an adjudication of maternity in court. This means the mother can legally make all the decisions regarding the child's health, safety, and other general issues, and that the child will reside with her. However, the legal father has the right to file in the local family court in order to gain custody.
When two people are married in Texas and have a child, both the father and the mother are considered joint custodians. This means both parents automatically have equal rights regarding the child. The husband is always designated as the legal father of any children his wife has. If the husband is not the biological father of a child born during the marriage, the mother has the right to file a paternity suit in court to determine the legal father. In order to obtain sole physical or legal custody, a married woman must file a custody motion in the appropriate family court. The mother has the right to file a custody suit even if there is no current action for divorce.
Factors in Custody Cases
During a custody case, many issues are considered. The primary goal of Texas custody laws is to provide the best environment possible for the child. Historically, courts in this state favored the mother as the primary custodian, but the current laws place the emphasis on the person the court deems the most fit parent. The parent-child relationship, financial situations, who the primary caretaker of the child is, and other issues are examined by the judge when awarding custody. In the cases of married or divorcing couples, sole physical and legal custody is usually not awarded to the mother, since both parents were raising the child together in the same household before the custody case. There are special circumstances, such as a father who is in jail, which may lead to a court granting both forms of custody to the mother and the termination of the father's rights to the child.
Child Support and Visitation
Typically, the sole physical custodial parent has the right to pursue child support during or after the conclusion of custody proceedings. This can be court-enforced or agreed upon by the parents and entered into record. Additionally, the non-custodial parent must provide health insurance coverage under Texas law. If health insurance is not available to the non-custodial father, for instance, the mother provides the coverage, but the father still has to pay for it.
Rights of Foster Mothers
A foster mother does not have the same rights as a biological mother under Texas law; however, a foster mother does have some rights if the child was placed legally with her by the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services. The child must have resided with the foster mother for at least 12 months, and any petition the foster mother wants to file, other than adoption, must be filed within 90 days of the child leaving the foster home. A foster mother can seek custody of a child in her care through adoption, but the parental rights of the birth parents must be terminated, which can be a very difficult procedure.
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