A Single Mother's Legal Rights in Texas

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

There are a few different ways in which a woman may become a single mother. She may have never been married, she may have gotten a divorce, her husband may have passed away, or her husband may have abandoned her. When a Texas woman finds herself living the life of a single mother, she has specific rights regarding her child.

Determining Custody

If a child is born in Texas to unmarried parents, Texas law recognizes the mother as the only legal parent the child has. The father, if he is known, cannot be added to the birth certificate and is not considered to be the father until he establishes paternity. If paternity is not established, the mother maintains sole legal and physical custody of her child. She is able to make all decisions and does not have to allow the father access to the child.

Establishing Paternity

If the mother wishes to establish paternity, she can do so in a couple of ways. She can petition the court to order a paternity test to establish paternity. This is especially useful if she is filing for child support and the father is uncooperative. If the father (or suspected father) refuses to complete a court-ordered paternity test, he will be held in contempt of court. However, if the father is cooperative and wants to be acknowledged as the child's father, he can fill out the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity.

Requesting Child Support

Even though a single mother in Texas is granted sole legal and physical custody of her child, she still has the right to request the father for child support to help financially support her child, given that she and the father have legally established paternity. In Texas, the father is responsible for paying a court-ordered amount of child support through wage garnishment. If he works under the table or keeps quitting jobs in an effort to avoid paying child support, the mother has the right to file for child-support enforcement, which will intercept tax returns and otherwise pursue payment from the father.

Visitation Decisions

In most cases, the mother has the primary right to custody if she is not married when the child is born, meaning she has the legal right to custody, care and control of the child. If the father's name is on the child's birth certificate, Texas custody laws recognize him as having the same rights as the mother. Otherwise, he can't win primary custody over the mother, though he might be able to establish some custody or visitation rights if he takes the matter to court.