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Though you and you partner never married, you raised a child together. Your relationship proves to head for separation, and you worry you will lose all rights to see your child.

In Texas and across the United States, many fathers do not initially establish paternity for multiple reasons. Perhaps they believed that because their relationship with their child’s mother was strong, there was no point in establishing paternity. Maybe you were very young when you became a father, and putting your name on the birth certificate was terrifying and confusing. In any circumstance, to share custody of your child after a separation, you must establish paternity.

Maternal custody in Texas

When a mother gives birth unmarried, Texas government views her as the sole parent of that child. Although:

  • You have provided for your partner and child financially
  • You have lived with your child and his or her mother for your child’s entire life; and
  • You acted as though you are your child’s legal father

A court still does not recognize you as a legal parent.

The only way for you to obtain legal rights to your child in Texas is through the establishment of paternity.

Ways to establish paternity

You hope to gain partial custody of your child. Because you did not establish your paternal rights at the birth, you must go through the Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) process. To obtain paternal rights, you must:

  • Sign, along with the child’s mother, an AOP form that states you are the legal father
  • File the form with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit

After the document is approved, you obtain all rights of a parent including:

  • Your name on the birth certificate
  • The ability to file for custody
  • Child support benefits
  • Health insurance

A court guarantees your rights if you and your partner agree to separate.

Though establishing your paternal rights at the time of your child’s birth proves wise, Texas court allows for the addition of the acknowledgement later in life. Know that if you are the father of your child, simple steps can be taken to ensure your rights.