Not Married, but Separating?

July 29, 2022||

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 property and have their obligations unless the couple has purposely consolidated their resources. For example, having a bank account, shared bills, or putting their two names on a home mortgage can complicate things.

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).


In Texas, the child custody laws for unmarried parents are almost identical to those 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, the mother automatically has custody rights over the child. The mother will get full custody of her child, both physical and legal. 

An unmarried father in Texas must, first and foremost, take legal steps before having any individual and definite rights over their child. At the same time, 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 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 primary issues when determining custody for an 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 child’s residence, 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 and 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 independently from each other.

Child Support 

In most cases, the mother 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 terms, but if he does not take the initiative, the mother may need to bring in a lawyer 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. 

It works with newly unmarried couples 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 to pay a certain percentage of their income as child support. The amount is unique to each situation and usually varies based on the non-custodial parent’s income. 


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

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

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

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


We’re ready to fight for you. We’re ready to be your ally when it comes to representing your case in El Paso or Las Cruces. And we’re ready to start right now. Please don’t waste time; contact our law offices today.
(915) 757-9999

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