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Unmarried fathers have rights and legal recourse

In Texas and around the United States, modern family dynamics are increasingly developing outside of the realm of marriage. From 2007 to 2018, the rate of American children born to unmarried parents jumped from 10.7 percent to nearly 40 percent. As can be expected, many situations result in single fathers living apart from their children and having to deal with issues related to child custody, visitation and parenting time.

In divorce cases, Texas family courts work to ensure that all child support and custodial parent issues will be resolved through agreements or by means of entering orders. When unmarried couples separate, they rarely go through the court system, and this is when some fathers may encounter challenges with regard to custody and uncooperative mothers.

Unwed fathers who wish to establish a meaningful relationship with their children despite not living under the same roof with them must first establish paternity. If for some reason they are not listed on the child's birth certificate, fathers may contact a family law firm to consider their options. Uncooperative mothers can be compelled to participate in the establishment of paternity process by petitioning the court to issue an appropriate order.

Once paternity is established, unmarried fathers can start looking at other issues such as custody and visitation rights. The Texas Family Code always advocates in the best interests of the child, and this often means joint legal custody. Even though the child still needs to live at a primary residence, an agreement might be drafted so that the child can spend at least 35 percent of his or her time at a secondary residence.

Child support is an important matter that should be formalized at the court level. Although there are child support guidelines that Texas courts can evaluate, each case is different. This is an obligation of both parents, and it should not preclude visitation rights or used as a litigation tool; however, unwed fathers who petition the court for visitation rights usually have a better standing when they are in compliance with support obligations.

Source: Very Well Family, "Rights of a Father If He Is Not Married," Wayne Parker, 04/05/2018

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