How to Protect Your Parental Rights Before Your Child Is Born?

Two parents arguing with the words, "protecting parental rights."

Children are incredible blessings, but for some individuals, this blessing can also be surrounded by a mountain of anxiety. Whether the child is born out of wedlock or the parents are on shaky ground with each other, these issues can have parents concerned about their parental rights. The mere thought of losing the child is extremely frightening, which is why it is so important to understand what your rights are as a parent and what steps you can take to protect them.

Alison Grant is Lewisville, Texas’s trusted family law attorney. She has helped countless clients find resolution in the darkest moments of their lives, ensuring a solid path to recovery and success after divorce, child custody disputes, or even the loss of a loved one. She and her team have created this thorough guide on how you can protect your parental rights in Texas.

What Are Parental Rights?

Parental rights are the legal rights that parents have concerning their children, whether biological or adopted. These rights include the right to make decisions about their child’s education, health care, and general welfare. These rights also guarantee that parents have both physical and legal custody of their child. These rights are the critical foundation to ensure that parents can provide the best care for their children and make decisions that promote the child’s best interests.

Physical custody is a legal term that refers to where a child lives. In cases of divorce, one parent will be designated as the primary physical custodian and will be in charge of ensuring that the child’s daily physical needs, such as food, clothing, hygiene, etc, are being taken care of. The other parent will be designated as the secondary physical custodian, meaning that those same physical needs will be the responsibility of the secondary physical custodian when the child is in their care or if the primary custodian is unable to care for the child for a reason outside of the primary custodian’s control, such as them having a medical emergency. 

Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions about a child’s life, such as where they go to school, what medical treatments they receive, and what religion they practice.  In the State of Texas, parents can either share legal custody, which is known as joint managing conservatorship, or one parent can have primary legal custody, known as sole managing conservatorship.

What Is the Right to Enter Into Contracts?

Parents have the right to enter into contracts on behalf of their children. This could mean anything from signing a contract for their child to enter a recreational sports team or a contract to sign them up for music or cooking lessons. Additionally, this also means that parents have the right to pass property over to their children. This includes monetary and physical property gifts such as inheritances, cars, or houses.

What Is Right to Child Visitation?

Parents have the right to child visitation, which means that even if one parent has primary physical custody of the child, the other parent can still visit them. Visitations can be structured or not, depending on the case surrounding the individuals. For example, parents who are no longer together may agree to a regularly scheduled visit or they may have more flexible arrangements.

Establishing a Father’s Parental Rights in Texas

Items for a new baby.

When a birth occurs, the mother who gave birth is always noted on the birth certificate as one of the parents. Any other party involved, whether it is a biological father or an adoptive parent, or the partner of a same-sex couple, will need to make sure that they are added as well. If you and your partner are not together, it is not necessary for both lines on the birth certificate to be filled out, but if you want parental rights, your name needs to be on the certificate.

For married couples, the law automatically presumes that the husband is the biological father of the child. This is known as the “presumption of paternity.” However, when parents are not married, establishing this paternity can be a bit more complicated. Since unmarried couples don’t have the father automatically established, the father will not initially have any legal rights to the child, unless they were there for the birth and were able to sign the name to the certificate. If a father wants to ensure that their paternity to their child is established, they will need to take several steps:

  1. Sign a Legal Document Known As the Acknowledgment of Paternity Form: Both parents must sign to establish paternity. This can happen at the hospital when the baby is born or later. Once the form is signed, it becomes legally binding and gives the father the legal rights to their child.
  2. Take a DNA Test to Establish Paternity: In some cases, the father may not be entirely sure if he is the biological father. If this is the case, a paternity test may be requested. If the test shows that they are in fact the father of the child, then he can establish his parental rights.
  3. Make Sure You Have a Family Law Attorney: While a father may require the document or the test on their own, there may be some cases where the parents are at odds with each other. In these cases, having a family law attorney on your side will ensure that your rights are protected and the best interests of the child are being taken into account.

What if I Have to Fight for My Parental Rights?

If you are in a situation where you need to fight for the parental rights of your child, this process can be extremely complex and emotional. It is important to remember that the Texas Courts will always put the best interests of your child into account first. Regardless of whether the dispute is due to a divorce, unmarried parents where the mother does not want anything to do with the father, or a dispute over possible custody or visitation rights of the child, a family law attorney is a good asset to have in your corner. 

An experienced family law attorney, such as those found at Alison Grant, Attorney at Law, will be your guide through the legal process. They will ensure that your rights are protected. They can also provide valuable advice throughout the process on how to proceed/interact with the mother of the child, and be your representative in court.

The court’s decision will determine whether or not the father has a more active or passive role in the decisions about their child’s future. So, ensuring that you have a strong legal representation on your side will ensure the best possible outcome for your situation.

Establishing Custody Arrangements for the Child

As we mentioned earlier, there are two types of custody for a child: physical and legal custody. In the State of Texas, physical custody can be broken down into possession and access, and legal custody is known as a conservatorship. Possession and access involve where the child lives, whereas conservatorship involves the decision-making power for important life decisions for your child, such as where they go to school.

When determining the custody of a child, the court will look at the following factors to determine the best interest of the child:

  1. The mental and physical health of the parents
  2. Any special needs the baby may have and how each parent takes care of those needs
  3. The location of each parent

Can I Get a Child Support Order If My Partner and I Are Not Together?

A parent holding hands with her children.

Yes. The biological father of the child as well as the mother, even if the child is in better care with the father, still has the duty to support their child. This duty ensures that the standard of living and comfort for your child is protected and taken care of. A family law attorney can ensure that you are set to give or receive on behalf of a certain amount of money to the parent who has custody of the child for their care. This amount cannot change once it is set unless the circumstances change and is brought back before a judge.

Alison Grant Attorney at Law Can Help Establish Your Right to Your Child

If you are in a situation where you are worried about having parental rights to your biological or adopted child, the team at Alison Grant, Attorney at Law can help. We have worked with countless families to ensure that their rights are protected and that both parents and the child are set up for success. Contact our team today for more information on our family law services or to schedule a consultation to go over your case.

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