If you’re a man considering divorce, you may be wondering what will happen to your children after you’re not in their lives every day. You know there will probably be an order for child support in the final divorce decree. But what about your relationship with your children, something you can’t put a price on? When will you get to see them? Will you be able to spend time with them? How much time? What can you do if their mother restricts your contact with them?
You Have the Right To A Relationship With Your Children
This is an important point to remember, even though courts tend to favor the mothers in custody assignment. Even if the father is more suited to having custody, and the children want it, mothers still tend to be favored.
Married, Or Unmarried?
The marital status is a consideration, even in Texas where we have so-called “common-law marriage.”
Unmarried couples can, and should, establish paternity of a child to make sure the father’s name on the birth certificate. Paternity ensures that the child has a legal relationship with his or her father, as well as protects the father’s rights if the parents should ever separate. The child will also be eligible for child support, as well as other benefits such as health insurance, Social Security, and veterans’ survivors benefits.
There are two ways to establish paternity that is unrelated to marriage:
1. An administrative process called Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) that can be done anytime before or after the child is born at a child support office or other designated entity. (This usually happens when the father is unable to be present at the time of the child’s birth.) However, it must be done before child support is ordered, or before a determination of paternity is made. Once the AOP is completed, the father’s name is placed on the birth certificate and has all the legal rights and responsibilities of the legal parent.
2. Court order—this is usually done when opening a child support case, or if an AOP is otherwise unsuitable.
Texas Family Code Section 160 establishes the presumption of fatherhood if a man is:
· married to the mother of the child and the child is born during the marriage
· married to the mother of the child and the child is born before the 301st day after the date the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce
· married the mother of the child before the birth of the child in apparent compliance with law, even if the attempted marriage is or could be declared invalid, and the child is born during the invalid marriage or before the 301st day after the date the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce
· married to the mother of the child after the birth of the child in apparent compliance with law, regardless of whether the marriage is or could be declared invalid, he voluntarily asserted his paternity of the child, and
- the assertion is in a record filed with the bureau of vital statistics
- he is voluntarily named as the child’s father
- he promised in a record to support the child as his own
· continuously residing in the household with the child, and he represented to others that the child was his own during the first two years of the child’s life.
If you meet any of the above criteria, you’ve established paternity, or the legal standing as a child’s father.
The Rights And Duties As A Parent In Texas
Texas Family Code Section §151.001 states that a parent has the following rights and responsibilities:
· the right to have physical possession, to direct the moral and religious training, and to designate the residence of the child
· the duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child
· the duty to support the child, including providing the child with clothing, food, shelter, medical and dental care, and education
· the duty, except when a guardian of the child’s estate has been appointed, to manage the estate of the child, including the right as an agent of the child to act in relation to the child’s estate if the child’s action is required by a state, the United States, or a foreign government
· except as provided by Section 264.0111, the right to the services and earnings of the child
· the right to consent to the child’s marriage, enlistment in the armed forces of the United States, medical and dental care, and psychiatric, psychological, and surgical treatment
· the right to represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child
· the right to receive and give receipt for payments for the support of the child and to hold or disburse funds for the benefit of the child
· the right to inherit from and through the child
· the right to make decisions concerning the child’s education and
· any other right or duty existing between a parent and child by virtue of law
It’s important to note that BOTH parents have these rights, unless they’ve been modified by a court order (such as terminating one’s parental rights.) One parent does not have the right to minimize the rights of the other, or alienate the child’s relationship with his or her father.
Need Help With Paternity Rights?
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced Fort Worth family law attorney with experience in child custody rights and arrangements after a separation and/or divorce. As a divorcee herself, Wendy understands the process as well as the difficulties involved. We can provide full representation both for men and women, and will work to ensure you are treated fairly, as well as protect the interests of you and your children.