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Things unmarried fathers should know about child custody

As a father who is not married to your baby's mother, you will likely have questions about your legal rights. Many fathers may assume that they are at a disadvantage when it comes to child custody and visitation. However, unmarried fathers are guaranteed certain rights to their child under Texas law.

Many unmarried fathers are noncustodial parent, which simply means that they do not have primary custody of the child. But, the father still has rights to play a role in raising and making important decisions in the child's life

Just because an unmarried father does not have primary custody does not mean that he is barred from having a meaningful relationship with his child. Fathers in this situation can have access to their children through visitation, which gives the parent a right to see the child at certain times.

There are a few things about the child custody process that a noncustodial parent should know.

First, if you receive a court summons, you must go to court. If you don't, decisions about your child could be made without your presence or consent. Also, understand the gravity of legal documents. Once they are signed, it can be expensive or impossible to reverse.

These are just a few basics regarding unmarried fathers' rights. In reality, the process is much more complicated and any father that is concerned about custody should try to learn more about their legal rights and options. If you are actively seeking custody of your child, don't leave the process to chance. Understand each legal decision, knowing what is required of you and your child's other parent.

Source: texasattorneygeneral.gov, "Handbook for Non Custodial Parents," Accessed Dec. 22, 2014

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