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FAMILY LAW

Not Married, but Separating?

March 16, 2020||

Unmarried couples that have been together for years no doubt share the same level of dreams, ambitions, and assets as wedded couples. And, if an unmarried couple decides to separate, it can be just as stressful and daunting as the divorce process—especially if they have children or shared possessions.

Both partners in an unmarried relationship are likely to possess their own property and have their own obligations unless the couple has purposely consolidated their resources. For example, having a shared bank account, shared bills, or putting their two names on a home mortgage can make things more complicated.

Below we outline a few of the laws and regulations you’ll need to know when going through a separation and how the process involves the child(ren).

Custody  

In Texas, the child custody laws for unmarried parents are almost identical to the child custody laws for parents who were previously married to each other. However, there is one big difference that is especially important for fathers.


For a married household, child custody laws in Texas say that paternity is assumed, so there is no need for a paternity test. On the other hand, the law also says that if a child’s parents are not married, then the mother automatically has custody rights over the child. The mother will get full custody of her child, which include both physical and legal. 

An unmarried father in Texas father must, first and foremost, take legal steps before having any individual and definite rights over their child. While an unmarried father has many restrictions on his rights as a father, even if his name is on the birth certificate. 

Once the father has taken a test and paternity has been established, the parents (or one parent) should be sure to submit a court order in order to establish their custody rights. There is no getting around this, this court order is mandatory for an unmarried father to have any rights over their child. Parents must have a thorough and all-inclusive court order that addresses all the issues within a custody arrangement.

A custody arrangement or court order is broken down into multiple key items that represent the main issues when determining custody for unmarried couple with a child or children. These include the rights and duties, the conservatorship, access, possession, and support.

Conservatorship refers to the title given to the parent by the court. This title establishes who will be the one to designate the residence of the child, as well as manage the finances that the child will receive. There are joint managing conservators, which is when both parents are allowed to manage the child; sole managing conservators, which is a single guardian for the child; and possessory conservators in Texas, who the judge can take away or give as many rights to, has the same rights as the managing conservators except they cannot make big decisions for the child, such as where they will live.  

Rights and duties include the right to consent to medical, dental, and psychological treatment, as well as make decisions regarding education. These are specific acts that can be looked after on behalf of one parent. This can be done either exclusively, jointly, or independent from each other.

Child Support 

In most cases, it is the mother who is seeking child support from the father. First, she would need to establish whether the father is biological or not. The father can do this on his own terms, but if he does not take initiative, the mother may need to bring in a lawyer in order to file a lawsuit against the father. If the father fails to take the test or does not agree to do so voluntarily, the court will eventually order the alleged father to submit to the testing. 

The way it works with newly unmarried couples is when they get divorced, or when only one of the unmarried parents has custody of the child, the court may order the parent with whom the child does not live with to pay a certain percentage of his or her income as child support. The amount is unique to each situation and usually varies based on the non-custodial parent’s income. 

Visitation 

Visitation is usually a high priority for people going through a separation. Once the father is proven as the biological father, he could potentially pursue changes to child visitation or request other custody rights. Both biological parents of the child have a right to claim child custody or child visitation. This is true regardless of whether or not the child’s parents were married when the child was born. 

The best interest of the child is top priority when deciding when, where, and for how long the unmarried father can visit with the child—just as it is the priority with any other custody decisions. If there is evidence that indicates otherwise, courts will presume that both were involved in the plans and benefit the child.

Ending a domestic partnership can be complicated, especially if it involves children, real estate, or large financial assets or debt. Even if both parents get along great, a family lawyer can make sure that everything is set up in the best interest of the child. 

Lovett Law Firm will provide expert representation, advice and will fight to make sure their rights are protected. 

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