Parentage in the Modern Era: What to Know When Baby is on the Way and No Wedding Day

Parenting is hard. Those three words are enough to capture the entire outlook of parenthood from the moment that the sweet child enters the world.

In today’s world, parenting has taken on a number of new issues such as parenting after a divorce, as an unmarried couple; single parenting; and co-parenting. Briefly stated, parenting is hard. According to the National Statistics Unit, in 2016 39.8% of births in the U.S. are by unmarried women. It is important that expecting or current modern parents consult with an attorney who can help guide them through the legal processes of ensuring full legal rights to conservatorship, possession of and access to their child and identifying numerous nuances that are becoming more and more prevalent in this modern era.  Parents today face many challenges that older generations never even dreamed about.

For obvious reasons the determination of maternity is far less disputed than that of paternity; however, the process for the determination of maternity and paternity are much the same. The Uniform Parentage Act in Chapter 160 of the Texas Family Code governs every determination of parentage in the State of Texas regardless of the place of birth of the child or the past or present residence of the child.

Chapter 153 of the Texas Family Code clearly defines the rights duties, possession of and access to the child by setting the primary consideration of such as what is in the best interest of the child. The Texas legislature acted to ensure that a child, whether of parents who were married or not, would have “frequent and continuing” contact with each parent so long, of course, that contact was in the best interest of the child. While every family is different and has different needs and schedules, the courts encourage agreements with regard to parenting plans; however, before the court will approve of a parenting plan, the court must determine that the plan is also in the best interest of the child.

Once parentage has been established, parents (unless limited by court order) have certain rights and duties appointed to them as a parent conservator of the child. An experienced family law attorney can help you identify your rights and ensure that those rights are protected.

Frequent contact between the child and each parent is encouraged as it optimizes the development of a continuing relationship between the child and each parent. The Texas Family Code, however, does take into consideration the age of the child when determining what is in the child’s best interest. As such, the Standard Possession Order described in Chapter 153 of the Texas Family Code generally applies only to those children above the age of three (3) years of age and older. For children under the age of three (3) years of age, the court will consider several factors in determining a possession schedule for the child and each respective parent.

Becoming or being a parent in this modern era has come with its own struggles. As the family dynamics begin to change and evolve, the legal system must also change and evolve to address the many issues of divorcing parents, unmarried parents, single parenting, and co-parenting. Should you find yourself in one of these situations, you should contact a Dallas child custody lawyer who can help protect your rights.  Please call 214.692.8200 to set up an appointment with McClure Law Group.

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