Never Married? Co-Parenting After a Breakup is Possible

Last updated on: July 17, 2023

Co-parenting after a breakup is similar to co-parenting after a divorce. Although you have to go through fewer legal proceedings, there are still legal documents you should take the time to prepare. Even if you were never married to your former partner, it is still wise to get a legal custody agreement and parenting schedule in place. Here are a few tips from a licensed attorney about co-parenting after a breakup, amicable or otherwise.

If you’re facing child custody challenges in Texas, don’t navigate the legal complexities alone. At the Law Office of Whitney L. Thompson, our experienced Houston child custody lawyers are dedicated to protecting your parental rights and securing the best interests of your children. Schedule a consultation today at (281) 214-0173 to guide you toward a favorable resolution. 

What Decisions Do You Need to Make?

When co-parenting after a breakup, you will need to make formal arrangements for your child’s well-being. Here are the most important questions you need to agree on:

  • How will each parent communicate with and access their children?
  • Will you have equal joint custody, or will one parent have primary custody?
  • How will each parent access critical records, such as medical information?
  • What decisions does each parent have the authority to make surrounding their children?
  • How will your children divide time between each parent?

Consulting with a lawyer can help you prepare for all of these questions. By establishing a custody and parenting schedule, you can legally establish how you will proceed to co-parent with your ex-partner.

How Do You Begin Co-Parenting After a Breakup?

#1: Establish Custody Arrangements

The first question you need to tackle surrounds custody. You should make an effort to set up your custody schedule in a way that keeps your children’s lives as normal as possible. Try to maintain their regular schedules and day-to-day lives.

#2: Set Boundaries

Set clear boundaries with your ex-partner, especially in the beginning. You may want to limit conversation topics to only those surrounding your children. Some find it beneficial to treat their co-parenting relationship as a business arrangement and speak as though they were a business partner.

#3: Communicate as a Team

Try to keep your heated arguments away from your children’s curious eyes and ears. While it may be difficult, it is important to stay neutral and work through disagreements in a level-headed way. For difficult conversations, you may want to plan a meeting in advance.

#4: Put Your Child’s Emotional Well-Being First

Some may harbor resentment, anger, or hurt toward their former partner, especially if a breakup was less than friendly. Be sure not to express contempt toward an ex in front of your children. Those negative remarks are not only upsetting, but they can affect a child’s self-worth and make them feel guilty.

#5: Acquire Legally Binding Custody Documents

When two parents are unmarried, it is automatically assumed that the mother has sole custody over the children. However, it is highly important for both parents to be in a child’s life. If a co-parent needs to establish paternity, you will need to send in a court order and create a legal custody arrangement.

Co-Parenting Strategies Description
Establishing Custody Arrangements Setting up a custody schedule that maintains the children’s regular routines and day-to-day lives.
Setting Boundaries Clearly defining boundaries with the ex-partner, focusing conversations on topics related to the children.
Effective Communication Maintaining neutral and level-headed communication to resolve disagreements and keeping arguments away from children.
Prioritizing Child’s Emotional Well-being Avoiding negative remarks or expressions of contempt towards the ex-partner in front of the children.
Acquiring Legally Binding Custody Documents Establishing legal custody arrangements, especially when the parents are unmarried or when paternity needs to be established.

Custody Laws in Texas for Unmarried Parents

Unmarried mothers may be granted distinct rights compared to married mothers under child custody laws in Texas for unmarried parents, depending on specific circumstances. Unmarried mothers have the sole right to make decisions regarding the child without consulting the father, including the ability to relocate with the child to another state without notifying the father. Nonetheless, if the father lacks legal recognition as the child’s parent, the mother is unable to pursue child support payments from him.

In Texas, when parents are unmarried, the mother is granted automatic legal and physical custody of the child, regardless of whether the father’s name appears on the birth certificate. This default custody arrangement grants the mother all rights and responsibilities.

  • Legal custody refers to the responsibility and authority to make significant decisions regarding the child’s healthcare, education, religious upbringing, and other crucial aspects.
  • Physical custody designates the primary residence of the child and can be awarded to either one or both parents.

Fathers who desire parental rights must first establish their legal paternity. Failure to do so results in limited or no rights concerning child custody and visitation. To establish paternity in Texas, an unmarried father can choose one of two methods:

  • Sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP): This legal form is signed by both the child’s father and mother, acknowledging the man as the child’s biological father. When both parents agree on the father’s identity, it is usually the most straightforward method to establish paternity.
  • Obtain a DNA test: If the father and mother do not agree on paternity or the mother does not consent to signing an AOP, the father can file a paternity lawsuit, also known as a Suit to Adjudicate Parentage, in court. The court will mandate a DNA test for the presumed father, the child, and the mother. The father must obtain a court order to compel the mother’s cooperation if she does not consent to the test.

Once paternity is established, the father needs to acquire a court order to establish his rights regarding custody. This order is necessary for the father to have any legal rights and responsibilities regarding the child. 

It’s important to consult with a Houston child custody lawyer to understand the specific details of your situation. The Law Office of Whitney L. Thompson possesses in-depth knowledge of the legal framework surrounding custody cases and can provide personalized guidance tailored to your circumstances. Contact us to arrange a consultation.

Encourage co-parenting consistency

It is healthy for children to be exposed and to learn from different perspectives. But they need to understand that each home has the same set of expectations. Children can avoid confusion by establishing consistency between one parent’s house and the home of their ex.

Rules. Rules do not have to be identical between the two households. However if you and/or your ex-spouse have established generally consistent guidelines, your kids will not have to bounce from one disciplinary environment to another. You should adhere to important lifestyle rules in both your home, including curfews, homework, and restrictions on certain activities.

Discipline. Respect your children’s rights and follow the same system of consequences for violations, even if they didn’t occur under your roof. You can restrict your kids’ access to the TV if they have been at your ex-spouse’s house. For rewarding good behavior, the same thing can be done.

Schedule. You should aim to ensure consistency in your children’s schedules wherever possible. Making sure your child has the same bedtimes, homework, and meals can help ease their adjustment to living in two different homes.

Houston child custody attorney

Resolving co-parenting disagreements

You and your ex will likely disagree on certain issues as you co-parent. As you attempt to reach a compromise, keep these things in mind:

Respect is a key ingredient in co-parenting. Simple manners are the best. Respectful and considerate means letting your ex know all about school events and being flexible with your schedule.
Keep communicating. You must continue to communicate if you disagree about an important matter. Talking about your disagreements with your child is not a good idea. Talk to a mediator or therapist if you are still not able to agree.

Plan For Your Children’s Well-Being

Deciding on a parenting schedule and custody agreement now can save you and your children lots of confusion and disagreement in the long run. Not only will you know what to expect, so will your kids. Creating certainty amidst an uncertain situation can help to ease their anxiety about the future.

Need help co-parenting after a breakup? Contact Whitney Thompson, Esq. at (281) 214-0173 today.

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