WHO HAS CUSTODY OF THE CHILD IF THERE IS NO TEXAS COURT ORDER

Texas law presumes that the husband to the mother of a child at the time of birth is the father. The presumptive father will have all legal rights unless paternity is challenged by some means. If the parents are unmarried, however, Texas law requires that paternity be affirmatively established.

Until paternity is established, the child will not have a legal father. There is one exception: If the father lived continuously with the child and the mother for the first two years of the child’s life and represented to others that he was the father, then he will be considered a legal parent. Otherwise, the mother retains all legal rights and responsibilities for the child up and until paternity is established.

Paternity can be established in one of two ways: (1) both parents voluntarily sign an acknowledgment of paternity (AOP) near the time of birth; or (2) one party files a “petition to adjudicate parentage,” which is a legal action seeking a court order establishing the parent-child relationship and ensuring the father’s legal rights.

BOTH PARENTS HAVE CUSTODY RIGHTS ABSENT A COURT ORDER

Assuming paternity is established, then the parties have custody rights and responsibilities until otherwise either agreed-upon by the parties or upon order of the court. If the parents are not together, they can negotiate custody and parenting arrangements that fit their respective schedules and circumstances.

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