In Texas, fathers have equal rights to mothers when it comes to child custody and child support. This means that fathers can pursue and enjoy joint or sole managing conservatorship of their children, and they may also be granted child support in some cases.
If you are a father who is going through a divorce and you want to establish your parental rights, you should speak to an experienced family law attorney. The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy can help you understand your rights and options, and they can represent you in court.
Here are some of the things a family law attorney can help you with:
- Filing for custody or child support
- Negotiating a settlement agreement with the other parent
- Representing you in court if you cannot reach an agreement with the other parent
If you are a father who is going through a divorce, it is important to understand your rights and to protect your interests. Contact The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy today to learn more about your options.
Abandoning the Tender Years Doctrine
For most of history, mothers were automatically awarded custody of their children in divorce cases. In the rare cases where fathers contested custody, courts almost always granted it to the mother.
This was due to the “tender years doctrine,” which held that young children needed to be with their mothers during their formative years. Fathers had no legal right to challenge this doctrine. Their only recourse was to try to prove that the mother was unfit to care for the children.
In the past, mothers always got custody of their children after a divorce. Fathers seldom won custody cases, even if they wanted it.
This was because the law said that young children should live with their mothers. Fathers had no legal right to fight this. They could only try to prove that the mother was a bad parent.
The tender years doctrine is no longer widely accepted in the United States. Today, courts make child custody decisions based on the best interests of the child, regardless of the parent’s gender.
Father’s rights were strengthened when the legislature passed a law explicitly stating that a court could grant custody to either the father or the mother. In 1984, a Texas court affirmed a custody award to a father in Garner v. Garner, 673 S.W.2d 413 (Tex. App. 1984), noting that a parent must be granted custody unless the court finds that it is not in the child’s best interest.
The court also stated that there is a presumption that the child’s best interests are served by awarding custody to its natural parents. Therefore, the burden of proof in a custody case is on the person who is trying to deprive the natural parent of custody.
The Texas legislature later passed a law stating that when determining custody, a court must consider the qualifications of the parties without regard to their marital status or sex. Texas Family Code § 153.002 establishes that the best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child, and Texas Family Code § 153.003 further provides that the court shall consider the qualifications of the parties without regard to their marital status or the sex of the party or the child in determining:
- which party to appoint as sole managing conservator;
- whether to appoint a party as joint managing conservator; and
- the terms and conditions of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.
Establishing Paternity in Texas
Paternity is the legal relationship between a father and child. When paternity is established, the father has certain rights and obligations to the child, such as the right to visitation and custody, and the obligation to pay child support.
Paternity is automatically established if the parents are married to each other when the child is born. However, if the parents are not married, paternity must be established for the father to have any legal rights to the child.
There are two ways to establish paternity in Texas:
- Voluntary acknowledgment of paternity (AOP): An AOP is a document signed by both parents that states that the man is the child’s biological father. AOPs can be signed at any time, but they are most commonly signed when the child is born.
- Court order: If the parents cannot agree on paternity, the father can file a petition with the court to establish paternity. The court will order a DNA test to determine if the man is the child’s biological father. If the DNA test is positive, the court will issue an order establishing paternity.
Once paternity is established, the father’s name will be placed on the child’s birth certificate. The father will also gain certain rights to the child, such as the right to visitation and custody, and the obligation to pay child support.
An AOP can be obtained at the hospital, the local birth registrar, the Attorney General’s Child Support Office, and the Vital Statistics Unit. Once the AOP is properly filed with the Vital Statistics Unit, the father is the legal father of the child and his name will be added to the child’s birth certificate.
If the mother and father disagree about paternity, either party can file a petition with the court to establish paternity. The court will order a DNA test to determine if the man is the child’s biological father. If the DNA test is positive, the court will issue an order establishing paternity.
In a court proceeding to establish paternity, both the mother and father have the right to be represented by an attorney at any stage of the process. If the mother and father agree that the father is the biological father, the court will immediately enter an order establishing paternity.
If either party denies or is uncertain of paternity, the court will order DNA testing. If the DNA test is positive, the court will issue an order establishing paternity. Once paternity is established, the father has certain rights and obligations to the child, such as the right to visitation and custody, and the obligation to pay child support.
The court can also issue orders of custody, visitation, and child support in the paternity proceeding. Establishing paternity is an important step for both the child and the father.
It gives the child the right to know and have a relationship with both parents, and it gives the father the right to participate in the child’s life. If you are unsure about how to establish paternity, you should consult with an attorney.
Dealing with Protective Orders and Allegations of Domestic Violence
Child custody in Texas is the process of determining which parent or parents will have legal and physical custody of a child. The goal of child custody is to ensure that the child’s best interests are met.
Texas child custody is divided into two categories: conservatorship and possession and access.
- Conservatorship refers to the right and responsibility of a parent to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as education, medical care, and religious upbringing.
- Possession and access refers to the right and responsibility of a parent to spend time with the child.
In most cases, Texas courts prefer to award joint conservatorship, which means that both parents share decision-making authority over the child. However, if one parent is deemed to be unfit or poses a danger to the child, the court may award sole conservatorship to the other parent.
When determining custody, Texas courts consider several factors, including:
- The child’s best interests
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- The stability of each parent’s home environment
- The parent’s ability to cooperate and communicate with each other
- The parents’ parenting skills
- Any history of domestic violence or abuse
If a parent has a history of domestic violence, the court will weigh this heavily when making a custody decision. The court may also order that the parent with a history of domestic violence complete parenting classes or anger management programs before being allowed to have unsupervised visitation with the child.
A protective order can be granted to protect a victim of domestic violence or abuse from further harm. Protective orders can be granted in cases where abuse has already occurred, or in cases where the victim fears future abuse.
In a child custody case, a court will consider whether a parent has a history of domestic violence or abuse. One way the court does this is by looking at whether a protective order has been granted against the parent in the past two years.
It is important to note that even one instance of domestic violence or abuse can be considered a “history” of abuse. This means that even a single episode of abuse can have a significant impact on a parent’s rights in a custody hearing.
If you are a victim of domestic violence or abuse, and you are concerned about the impact it might have on your child custody case, it is important to speak to an experienced family law attorney. An attorney can help you understand your rights and options and can represent you in court.
Additionally, if you are a parent who has been accused of domestic violence or abuse, it is important to speak to an attorney as well. An attorney can help you defend your rights and advocate for your interests in court.
Domestic violence can significantly limit a parent’s chances of obtaining custody, but the abusive parent may still be granted some rights and access to their child if the court finds that:
- The child’s physical and emotional health would not be at risk.
- The visitation or access would be in the child’s best interest.
- A visitation order can be designed to protect the child.
- The abusive parent completes a treatment program and has supervised visitation.
In other words, the court will weigh the risks and benefits of granting the abusive parent visitation or access to their child. If the court finds that the benefits outweigh the risks and that the child can be protected, then the court may grant the abusive parent some rights and access to their child.
In Texas, supervised visitation means that a parent cannot be alone with their child without the supervision of another adult. The courts believe that it is not in the best interest of a child to have unsupervised visits with an abusive parent.
If an abusive parent wants to have unsupervised visits with their child in the future, they must prove to a judge that the child would be safe in their care and that there will be no abuse.
A court may terminate a parent’s parental rights, including visitation rights, in extreme circumstances, such as when serious injury or sexual assault has occurred. This is a last resort, but it may be necessary to protect the child.
Father’s Rights Attorney in Tarrant County, TX
If you are a divorcing father who needs help exercising your legal rights in a contentious divorce case, you are going to want to be sure that you have competent legal representation on your side. Do not wait to get in touch with The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy for help achieving the most favorable possible outcome to your case.
Do not wait to call (817) 422-5350 or contact us online so you can schedule a free consultation and fully discuss your entire case with us. Our firm has handled various kinds of family law-related issues in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grapevine, Keller, Southlake, and other cities in Tarrant County, Texas.