There is a misconception that courts always award primary custody to the mother based on the traditional idea that the mother is always the better parent. However, while the system still favors mothers, it is possible for a father to become the primary caretaker.

Even if a father does not become the primary conservator, it is vitally important that he protects his rights in any divorce or custody proceeding. Important decisions will be made regarding custody, visitation, child support and other issues, and any father is entitled to a fair outcome.

On this page, we briefly identify some of the main issues you will confront as a father in a family law case.

Who is a Father?

Before we discuss what rights a father has, it is important to understand who is considered a father under the law. This issue is addressed in more detail on our page addressing paternity suits, but a brief summary follows.

In short, you are presumed to be the father under certain circumstances, mainly if the child was born while you were married to the mother or within 300 days of ending the marriage.

If you were not married to the mother, you can also acknowledge paternity by filing a certificate with the State, which will make you the father as long as it is not contested and there is no other presumed father.

In the event of any dispute or uncertainty about who is the father, it is typically resolved through genetic testing. The court will presume a man is in fact the father if the genetic testing indicates a 99% probability of the man’s paternity.

If you believe paternity will be an issue in your case, you can read more about how that resolved on our page about paternity suits.

What Rights Does a Father Have?

Fathers have the absolute right to equal treatment in family courts in Texas. The Texas Family Code, Section 153.003, specifically says that all decisions involving children must be made based on the best interest of the child, and without regard to the sex of either party.

In reality, judges are humans and they are subject to the same biases as other people. And the fact remains that there is still a social and cultural bias towards women in family court proceedings.

That said, it is important for yourself and for your child to fight for your rights as a father. Despite this gender bias in the courts, fathers can and do win primary custody when a court can be convinced that the facts of your case call for such an outcome.

Even if the child does not primarily lives with you, it is important to fight for other rights you have as a father. For example, you want to be designated a joint managing conservator, so you have the rights that a managing conservator has, including:

  • Physical possession and directing the moral and religious training of their child
  • The duty of care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child
  • The right to medical, surgical and psychological decision regarding the child
  • The duty to support the child with such things as clothing, food, shelter, and health care
  • The right to represent the child in legal action
  • The right to inherit from and through the child
  • The right to consent to the child’s marriage and enlistment in the armed forces
  • The right to make decisions regarding the child’s education

These are just some of the rights that you could be granted or denied in a custody proceeding.

What Other Issues Effect Fathers?

In addition to the issues above, if you are not named the primary custodian, you want to make sure you have a good visitation schedule that allows you to spend a lot of time with your children. A visitation schedule can be a 50/50, where each parent gets equal time, a standard or expanded standard possession order, or little or no visitation. You can learn more about this issue on our page about visitation on this website.

Another important issue is child support. Child support can be a complicated calculation, and judges sometimes deviate up or down from state guidelines. Because you may be paying support for up to 18 years (or longer in some cases), you want to make sure you are not ordered to pay more than you should. You can get a detailed explanation of this issue at our page devoted to child support.

Another issue is spousal support. Some people believe alimony does not exist in Texas. While the laws are more restrictive than in other states, courts can and do order spousal support when the law allows it. Spousal support can be up to $5000/month, so you want to be aware of this issue before going to court. You can read more about this issue on our page about alimony and spousal support on this website.

You may also want to take a closer look at our page on property division and military divorces.

Contact our Fathers’ Rights Attorney Today

Fathers are at an inherent disadvantage in these proceedings because of lingering cultural and societal bias against father and in favor of the concept of the mother as the more nurturing and caring parent. For that reason, it is all the more important for you to protect your rights as a father with a strong advocate who has the knowledge and experience to help you. Contact our top fathers’ rights attorneys at Salmon Haas Law today for a free consultation.

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