Married parents have clear child custody rights to refine the separation process. However, cultural changes have seen a decrease in marriages in recent years. While unmarried parents have rights regarding their children, they also have unique challenges when separating. Learn more about the custodial differences before reaching out to an attorney who can simplify the matter. 

What Child Custody Rights Do Unmarried Parents Have in Texas? 

Maternal Rights

Married spouses have the paternity of the children assumed. For non-married couples, there's no legal recognition of paternity. In these cases, the mother receives automatic custody if the parents separate.

Without the father's legal paternity established, mothers can make all child-related decisions. They can make medical choices for the children or move out of state without notice or court interference. 

However, without recognition of paternity, the mother can't collect child support from the father. 

Paternal Rights

Unmarried fathers must establish paternity to have their rights recognized. The court will not accept submitting a copy of the birth certificate confirming the father's name. Most parents go to a family law attorney to file an Acknowledgment of Parentage (AOP) document. For it to be binding, both parents must sign it, state there isn't another adjudicated father, and include the results of a paternity test. 

What Do Unmarried Parents Need to Establish in a Custody Agreement? 

Access & Possession


Unmarried parents must have a court order covering common custody issues. Access and possession often refer to visitation rights, listing dates, times, and other logistics. The agreement can be altered over time. Many co-parents make changes if one moves far from the child or to accommodate summer vacations and holidays. 


Both parents have the responsibility of supporting their children. The state will award child support based on parental earnings and child-related education, medical, and living expenses. Texas statutes on child support will also be followed, even if the parents were never married. 

Rights & Duties

In a custody agreement, rights and duties are the decisions one parent can make on behalf of the other. They may include consent to decide on the child's education or their mental and physical health. 


Both parents can establish a joint managing conservatorship if they were never married. However, for both parents to be eligible, the father's paternity must be established. 

Once complete, the conservatorship addresses the physical and legal aspects of the child custody agreement. The document also lists the rights and duties along with the child's primary residence. 


Establishing a custody plan can seem overwhelming at times, which is why people in New Braunfels, TX, rely on Ronald D. Zipp Attorney at Law to guide them through these challenging times. For over 40 years, he has helped married and unmarried parents find equitable solutions. As a former judge, attorney Zipp has an intimate understanding of the factors involving guardianship and support. His natural compassion will help relieve your anxiety, and his tenacity will ensure your rights are upheld. For more information on his practice areas, visit his website. To schedule a free consultation, call him at (830) 629-5600.