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But you’re not married to your child's mother. Does it matter? Legally, yes.

The definition of “family” is changing, and studies show that unmarried parents are becoming increasingly more common today. You and your child's mom may sail blissfully into the future, parenting your sweet bundle of joy as a happy family unit. But if you and the mom decide that you must go your separate ways, what rights do you have regarding your child?

Under Texas law, there is no presumption of paternity if the parents of a child are not married at the time of conception or the time of birth. What that means is that the father has no parental rights or obligations. Without a court order, the mother can refuse to allow you to see or care for your child. And this refusal can affect your extended family as well. Or the mother can move out of state without your permission.


A strategic child custody guide for fathers

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Ironically, all property rights once belonged to men, including children treated as property under the law. Women did not have any legal rights to their children.

As women gained more influence, laws relaxed and public attitudes eventually changed to the other end of the spectrum. Society reasoned that up until a child reached the age of four years, maternal care was essential for optimum growth and development.

Parental rights to share custody


How soon should you establish paternity?

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In Texas, the Office of the Attorney General explains that to establish a legal connection between father and child, you have to establish paternity. With established paternity, your name appears on your child's birth certificate, you receive legal rights in accordance to childcare and you can protect the child's legal connection. You also receive a father's right to medical records and school records. Likewise, paternity provides a foundation for custody rights.

If you are not married to the mother, to establish paternity, you need to sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form. You can complete the process quickly by simply signing a form with the mother. Parents have an opportunity to sign an AOP before the child's birth, during and after.

In other situations, you may use a court order to establish paternity. After you open a case with the Office of the Attorney General, you go through the process to determine paternity. There will likely be DNA testing to prove paternity.


The Fathers’ Rights movement involves a large array of different groups. On the whole, however, the movement fights for more equal child custody (conservatorship, possession and access) rights for fathers.

In the U.S., the movement arose in the 1960s and 1970s, after divorce rates began rising dramatically. At that time, many courts operated on the presumption that it was in children's best interest to live primarily with their mothers. As a result, mothers got the large majority of the available time with their kids, while fathers were often relegated to “visitor” status.

Many divorcing men found themselves responsible for large alimony and child support payments, even though they had little say over their children's upbringing and got to spend only a few days a month with their kids.

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