Child Custody Considerations for Unmarried Parents


Navigating the complexities of child custody can be challenging for any parent, but unmarried parents in Texas often face unique considerations. Establishing child custody arrangements when you're not married requires careful attention to legal processes, financial responsibilities, and the child's best interests. In this blog, we will explore the key factors that unmarried parents in Texas should consider when seeking child custody arrangements. We will discuss establishing paternity, developing a parenting plan, and ensuring the child's best interests are prioritized throughout the process.

Establishing Paternity

One of the first steps for unmarried parents seeking child custody in Texas is establishing paternity. This legal recognition of the child's biological father is vital for determining parental rights and responsibilities. There are several ways to establish paternity in Texas, including:

  • Voluntary Acknowledgment: Unmarried parents can sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form, which legally recognizes the child's father.
  • Court Order: If there is a dispute or disagreement regarding paternity, a court order may be necessary. This often involves DNA testing to confirm biological parentage.
  • Presumption: In some cases, paternity may be presumed when a man is married to the child's mother or if he has openly acknowledged the child as his own.

Once paternity is established, the father gains legal rights and responsibilities related to the child, including the right to seek custody and visitation.

Developing a Parenting Plan

To ensure a smooth and fair child custody arrangement, unmarried parents should create a comprehensive parenting plan. This plan outlines the details of how the child's time will be divided between the parents and addresses various aspects of custody, such as:

  • Custody Types: Decide on legal custody (decision-making authority) and physical custody (where the child will reside).
  • Visitation Schedule: Develop a visitation schedule that considers the child's age, school schedule, and extracurricular activities.
  • Decision-Making Authority: Specify how important decisions, such as healthcare, education, and religious upbringing, will be made.
  • Child Support: Discuss financial support arrangements, including child support payments, health insurance, and other expenses.

Creating a well-thought-out parenting plan can reduce potential conflicts and ensure the child's best interests are protected.

Prioritizing the Child's Best Interests

In any child custody case, the child's best interests are paramount. Texas law places great emphasis on ensuring that custody arrangements are favorable for the child's physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. When determining the child's best interests, courts may consider factors such as:

  • Each parent's ability to provide a stable and loving environment.
  • The child's relationship with each parent.
  • The child's age and preferences, if they are mature enough to express them.
  • Any history of domestic violence or abuse.
  • Each parent's willingness to encourage a positive relationship with the other parent.
  • The child's school and community ties.

Unmarried parents must be prepared to demonstrate their commitment to the child's well-being and their ability to foster a healthy, supportive environment.


Child custody considerations for unmarried parents in Texas require careful attention to legal processes and the child's best interests. Establishing paternity, developing a parenting plan, and prioritizing the child's well-being are essential steps in the process. By addressing these aspects, unmarried parents can work towards a fair and effective child custody arrangement that benefits their child's growth and development. If you have further questions or need legal guidance on this matter, contact an experienced family law attorney at Coldwell Bowes, who can provide valuable insights and assist in navigating the legal complexities of child custody in Texas.

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