Unmarried Parents in Texas
The number of unmarried parents in Texas and the rest of the country are growing dramatically, as cohabitation is on the rise and marriage is on the decline. Not only is marriage in decline but also the age couples finally tie the knot is increasing. We are seeing more and more cases of unmarried parents, and their parents, fighting over child custody.
Back in 2012, we wrote a blog "What Rights Does An Unmarried Father Have in Texas" (/blog/2012/10/what-rights-does-an-unmarried-father-have-in-texas.shtml) which has been read by thousands. The rather stark answer to the question raised in this blog is "none", without a court order. Even if the father is designated as such on the birth certificate, the father has no enforceable rights. The child's mother is completely within her legal rights to refuse to allow the father to even see the child, let allow visitation or care. This is also true for the father's entire family, so that any grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc., would also be unable to have any access without the mother's express permission. However, even if that permission were to be granted, it can be withdrawn arbitrarily at a moment's notice.
Why is this a growing Texas and nationwide problem? In previous generations, American high school graduates were able to find reasonably high-paying manufacturing jobs, and therefore, marry and then have children. With many such manufacturing jobs moving outside the United States, couples desiring children are moving in together and delaying marriage. According to conclusions from a recent study from Johns Hopkins University published in the Wall Street Journal, this phenomenon had a greater impact on millennials living in counties with higher income inequality and fewer middle class jobs.
Ultimately, this can lead to an increase in family instability, which can have a devastating impact on the children of these families. Divorce law does not cover break-ups of unmarried parents. Unmarried mothers have some inherent rights. Unmarried fathers and their families have none. Consequently, unmarried parents who are contemplating breaking up/moving out, etc. should consult an experienced family law attorney, and consider bringing their respective parents. It is incumbent on all cohabitating couples contemplating children to understand their legal rights and responsibilities, preferably before having the children.