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Can an unmarried father get full custody?

As a Texas father, you want to spend as much time as possible with your children. If you are divorced, however, or if you and your children’s mother were never married, you may be hesitant to attempt to gain full custody of your children. You may be under the impression that courts favor mothers in custody cases, especially if the children are young.

As VeryWellFamily reports, however, such is no longer the case. While courts did at one time favor mothers, most of them today favor joint custody arrangements, regardless of the age or gender of the children. The prevailing opinion is that children thrive best when they have a sustaining relationship with both parents. Nevertheless, there are times, in certain situations and under certain circumstances, when a court will grant sole custody to a father.

Be aware that if you petition the court for full custody of your children, the judge will carefully consider the following three issues:

  1. Whether or not you have established paternity of your children
  2. Your relationship with your children
  3. Your children’s relationship with their mother


If you and your children’s mother were married at the time of their birth, you are their presumed legal father. In all other birth situations, however, the sooner you establish legal paternity the better. Texas makes this quite easy for you to do, and you should check with the Texas Child Support Division to see what procedures you need to follow.

Your relationship with your children

It goes without saying that the closer and stronger the relationship you have with your children, the easier it will be to obtain full custody of them. This relationship should go far beyond your mere financial support of them. You should be as involved as possible in their school, sports, religious and recreational activities.

Your children’s relationship with their mother

While you should never attempt to come between your children and their mother, you nevertheless have to right to ensure that your children live in a safe, stable environment. If you know that their mother takes drugs, drives recklessly, parties too much, leaves them alone without supervision, does not provide adequate food or clothing, allows them to skip school and/or has a mental illness that prevents her from providing adequate physical and emotional care, this is strong evidence that a judge definitely will consider.

Be aware that under most circumstances a court will award your children’s mother reasonable visitation even if it awards sole custody to you. Virtually the only exception is if you can prove that she abused or neglected them.

This is general information only and not intended to provide legal advice.

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