Informal Marriage (Common Law Marriage), and Grandparent Custody Rights

Live at Five’s board certified family attorney, Sonya Coffman, answers questions submitted by Southeast Texas KFDM News viewers. These questions include:

  • Once a father establishes paternity, what are his rights?
  • Can grandparents gain child custody?
  • What constitutes an informal (common law) marriage?


well once a father establishes paternity what are his rights for the answer to that question and more we turn to Live at Five’s family attorney Sonya Coffman so as far and a father's rights what are they well if a father does not have paternity established that's the first thing that he needs to do in order to get rights and that's just a simple paternity test well that's one way to establish the answer to that but not to establish the legal rights he either needs to file what is called an acknowledgement of paternity with the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Austin or he needs to have a court's determination of his paternity in order to establish those legal rights and once those rights are established then there's usually a court order that sets those out enabling him to visitation and the other things that go along with being a parent but it could also talk about child support yes it will so it may end up costing him a little but they are his kids so that's that’s alright it we’ll go to we’ll go to KFDM News Facebook page where we posted that you were on today and it says when I divorced my daughter's mother almost ten years ago the decree states that she pays that no child support can this be changed easily I don’t know about easily but it can be changed I would suggest to this viewer that he contact the Attorney General's Office wherever he lives Beaumont Mid-County Hardin County wherever he lives and ask for an appointment to come in and have them review the decree and review that situation and they can help him with that free of charge okay another question from Linda as a grandparent what rights do we have if we’re not able to see our grand baby can we take them to court to get grandparent rights that is a very complicated question but every year that our legislature meets they take away more and more of the grandparent rights and by large there aren't really many grandparent rights in Texas unless the grandparent can prove that the child would be substantially harmed if they were not allowed access to the child and it's all based on a fundamental liberty interest that a fit parent has to make decisions concerning their child including whoever gets to visit with them so it's very tough to do but on a case by case basis sometimes it can be established okay back to our KFDM News Facebook page Brandi wants to know my fiancé and I had our income taxes done together for the first time in two thousand eight and the lady that prepared it for us did it as married filing jointly does that mean by law if we were to split up we'd have to file for divorce even though we've never been married it could very well be I think what the heart of that question is how these people established an informal or common-law marriage in Texas and they may very well have there just three simple requirements for that one of which is an agreement to be married so by filing a joint tax return that says that they’re married any agreement could certainly be inferred from that the second is that they live together as husband and wife within the State of Texas sounds like they have and the third one is that they hold out a represent to other people that they are husband and wife which they have by filing this tax return so there's a pretty good bet that they are married informally and that's just as legal as a marriage so it can only be dissolved by divorce there’s no informal divorce they gotta go to court and get a divorce alright Sonya thanks so much we always appreciate you taking time to stop by you have a question about family law let attorney Sonya Coffman answer your questions you can fax us those questions at eight nine two seven three oh five email them or just watch for them to show up on our KFDM News Facebook page