Biological mothers are recognized as legal parents and granted rights accordingly, but in many cases, Texas mothers still must work to defend their rights.
Paternity rights are cause for concern for many unmarried or divorcing parents in Harker Heights. The issue of mother’s child custody rights is more often overlooked, since many parents assume that mothers receive preference or automatic rights. In reality, the rights of both parents are given equal weight, and in many cases, it is important that Texas mothers understand and work to protect their rights.
Basic mothers’ rights
In Texas, a child’s biological mother is automatically recognized as a legal parent. The Texas Family Code provides that legal parents have the right to “frequent and continuing” contact with their children, except in extenuating circumstances. In contrast, fathers’ rights depend on establishment of paternity; an unmarried biological father must take additional steps to assert his paternity.
If a child is born without a legal father, the mother has the right to sole physical and legal custody. The mother has no obligation to let the biological father spend time with the child until paternity is established; at that point, the mother’s rights must be balanced with the father’s rights.
In many cases, a mother may wish to establish paternity for legal or financial reasons, such as collecting child support. If the biological father denies paternity, the mother has the right to open a child support case, according to resources from the Texas Attorney General. A family law court will then determine paternity based on DNA testing and other evidence.
When married parents divorce, the mother does not automatically receive certain custody rights; instead, a family law judge decides what type of parenting arrangement would be best for the child. The mother can contribute to the parenting plan, and after the divorce, she can seek modifications or enforcement of the plan.
Mothers’ and fathers’ rights overlap in many ways, which can lead to complications. Protecting the rights of both parents can become difficult in certain situations, as cases of domestic violence illustrate.
Situations of abuse
If a mother or her children are being abused, the mother has the right to seek a protective order to defend herself and the children. According to materials from the Texas Attorney General, a protective order can do all of the following things:
Unfortunately, in these cases, a mother may be accused of making false allegations or alienating the children from the father. The Wellesley Center for Women reports that mothers who report abuse may face courtroom biases, and these biases may lead to the violation of a mother’s rights.
In some cases, mothers may be viewed as uncooperative if they do not wish to meet with the abusive father, allow unsupervised visitation or provide sensitive personal information, such as a current address. This may result in a custody decision that favors the father and keeps the mother from protecting or spending time with her children. In these cases, mothers may need professional help to defend their rights.
Advocating for mothers’ rights
In theory, mothers’ rights may seem less complex than fathers’ rights, but various circumstances can complicate the issue. These include cases of abuse, unverified paternity and high-conflict separations, which are situations many mothers face. Most mothers can benefit from working with an attorney to understand and protect their rights.