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What Is Typically Meant By “Father’s Rights” in Court?

Mar 19, 2022 | Child Custody, Child Support

These days, there is much discussion surrounding men’s rights and women’s rights, respectively. Men and women face unique situations in life that call for distinct remedies. This is also true in family courtrooms. Nevertheless, many men are unaware of their specific rights in family law. The law gives unique consideration to men and women, which includes specific privileges for fathers. These are collectively known as father’s rights. How are these rights applied in courtrooms in places like Sugar Land, TX?

Whether you’re in Sugar Land or a larger city like Houston, TX, all family court cases adhere to the same state statutes. The state family law code outlines what rights fathers and mothers have as married couples and as divorced families. Let’s take a closer look at how these rights work in court and what they mean for you in different family law scenarios.

What is Typically Meant by “Father’s Rights” in a Houston, TX Court?

Defining Father: The Concept of Paternity in Texas

In order for someone to have father’s rights, they first need to be a father. However, simply providing for a child does not necessarily make you a father in a legal sense. In order for any paternal rights to apply, you must be recognized by the state as the father of a child. How this happens depends on your marital status and the decisions you make upon the birth of your child.

For married couples, the state automatically assumes that the legal husband of the birth mother is the father. If you suspect that the child is not actually yours, you may challenge this in court. However, such cases require you to also file for divorce on grounds of adultery and present your claims to the court. If your evidence is solid and the court rules in your favor, then you will not be held responsible for the illegitimate child.

Establishing Paternity for Unmarried Couples in Sugar Land, TX

If your partner becomes pregnant out of wedlock, you’ll have to establish paternity manually. The state does not automatically confer paternity to you in these cases. If both you and the mother in question are in agreement as to the paternity of the child, then you can file an Acknowledgement of Paternity form to the state and the matter is over in minutes. However, if paternity is in dispute, you will need to go to court.

First, someone must file a petition to adjudicate parentage in a local court. In these cases, most judges will call for a DNA test. The court will examine the results and then file an order adjudicating parentage. Your name will be put on the child’s birth certificate and other vital records. Regardless of how you become a legal father, your rights will be the same. Let’s consider what those are.

Child Custody Rights

Texas has a unique approach to child custody compared to other states. You’ll often need to fight harder as a man to secure a fair custody deal. Unlike most states, which target an equal custody arrangement, Texas calls for a 75-25 split, with the majority of time typically given to the mother. This is unfortunately due to the traditional perception of mothers as being better caregivers.

If you are a man looking to have evenly divided custody, or if you want majority custody, then expect an uphill battle. You’ll need the assistance of a good lawyer who understands father’s rights. The current standard is unfair and antiquated. While some progressive judges understand this, most will require persuasion if you intend to seek majority custody. In either case, you still have rights over your child that you can exercise.

Child Support

If you are not awarded majority custody, you will most likely have to pay child support to the child’s mother. This amount will be determined using formulas established by the state. These calculations consider how much each of you earns and aims to bridge the difference in income. You have the right to request a modification to the amount of these payments if circumstances change, for example, if the mother gets a pay raise or enters a new relationship.

Likewise, you can also petition for some child support if you are awarded majority custody. Many men are unaware that this is possible since traditionally most child support payments come from men. However, the law does treat you both equally, and you may be able to get some support even if your former spouse earns less than you.

Right to Determine Your Child’s Affairs

Joint custody arrangements do not revoke your right to a say in your child’s affairs. Even if you only have custody for a single day a week, you are still considered your child’s parent and that affords you certain rights. For example, if your child falls ill and requires medical treatment, you are able to intervene and request a second opinion or an alternative treatment if you don’t like what the child’s mother is doing. If the child’s primary custodian wants to homeschool your child, you could also oppose that motion.

Naturally, courts tend to give more leverage to the parent that has primary custody since they are the ones that have to live with the consequences of these decisions. However, that does not mean that you as a father lose your right to influence your child’s growth and development.

Visitation Rights

If you are not given any custody of the children at all, then you will need to discuss visitation rights. As the legal father, you’re still allowed to see your children, even if they are entirely in their mother’s custody. However, the court is allowed to place limits on visitation. For example, the primary custodian can specify when you are able to visit. The primary custodian can also insist on being present during visitation.

Fortunately, as long as you have not been convicted of a serious crime, these cases are rare. Texas aims to do what is best for the child, and it is widely understood that the best thing for the child is for both parents to be involved in their lives. So, unless there is a valid reason to not give you any custody, you shouldn’t have to worry about strict visitation rules.

Financial Rights

There are important financial father’s rights to consider as well. Even if you do not have custody of your children, you still have the right to use financial instruments to better your child’s future. For example, you could contribute to an IRA and withdraw from it later to help pay for your child’s education. You can also name your child as a benefactor in your will.

How to Ensure Your Rights Are Respected

As a father, there are certain rights that you are entitled to exercise. However, family cases are emotional and frequently very contentious. Courts do make mistakes. The best way to ensure that your rights are upheld in court is to have quality representation from a family lawyer that specializes in defending men.

The Skillern Firm has an expert legal team with decades of experience in family law. We can help you get what you deserve in court. Contact The Skillern Firm to schedule an appointment and speak to one of our family lawyers.