In Texas, fathers who aren't married to their child's mother need to take several legal steps to exercise their parental rights. In general, a father has the same rights as the child's mother, but these rights aren't recognized until the father legally establishes that he is the child's father. While attempting to establish paternity, court orders may be required if the mother is uncooperative. Once a father establishes paternity, he can prevent the mother from giving his baby up for adoption and make decisions regarding the child's upbringing.
Texas state law automatically lists the husband as the father of a child on birth certificates. However, if you are unmarried, you must request to have your name added to the child's birth certificate. If the child's mother is cooperative, she may add your name to the birth certificate after you sign a legal form acknowledging your paternity. Otherwise, your name can be added to the birth certificate by court order.
If you want to force an uncooperative mother to allow you visitation rights, you must request a court hearing. At the court hearing, after establishing paternity you can request custody or visitation rights. Custody in a legal sense does not automatically refer to physical custody, but is rather the ability to influence your child's upbringing and make decisions about her. Visitation rights establish guidelines for seeing your child.
After establishing paternity, you may also be obligated to pay child support payments. This will be determined during a hearing about visitation and custody rights. Typically, child support payments are based on your income and how many children you have.
If you are concerned that the mother of your child may place the baby up for adoption, you must register with the state's Vital Statistics Unit within 31 days of the child's birth. Once you register, the court will notify you of any impending adoption hearing so that you can protest the adoption.
Making Parental Decisions
Decisions about parental rights can be decided during a custody hearing in court. In general, if your rights are not limited you may take your child for medical treatment, direct her moral and religious upbringing and have input on her education.
- child and father image by Renata Osinska from Fotolia.com