For unmarried parents in Texas, gaining access to their child can be far more difficult than for a married parent. Mothers, of course, have a natural advantage because they give birth and demonstrate without any doubt that they are the child’s biological mother. Fathers have a more difficult task in establishing their parental rights.
In order to exercise the full spectrum of paternal rights, a purported father must first prove that he is, in fact, the child’s father. If the mother does not dispute the father’s assertion of parenthood, that issue may disappear. However, if the mother disputes the male’s paternity, the man may need to commence a paternity proceeding to prove that he is the child’s father. A full-scale paternity proceeding may involve DNA testing and the testimony of persons who saw the mother and the alleged father together before the child was born. A mother may also be required prove paternity if she wants the biological father to provide child support.
If the man’s paternity has been established, he is entitled to the full panoply of paternal rights, subject only to proving that the man’s involvement in the life of the child will serve the best interests of the child. The father’s rights include: the ability to make decisions concerning the child’s medical care, education, religion and general welfare, and to have reasonable access to the child. As with any dispute between unmarried or divorced parents concerning any of these issues, the court may be required to intervene to resolve issues that the parents are unable to resolve.