Understanding Fathers’ Rights in Abortion Legal Cases

Understanding Fathers' Rights in Abortion Legal Cases

Thousands of men in the United States find out they’re going be fathers every day. While this revelation is considered a blessing for many soon-to-be fathers, the notion of impending fatherhood comes as a shock to others. They may feel unprepared to take on the responsibility of becoming a parent or worry they won’t be able to afford to pay child support for a child they didn’t plan to have.

This leads some men to wonder, what are male rights to opt-out of child support in unwanted pregnancies? For men who don’t want to become a father OR pay child support—those men searching online for “men’s rights abortion child support,” “paternal rights abortion” or “abortion father rights”—questions like, “What happens when a father wants abortion mother doesn’t want to have performed?” may be top of mind.

Conversely, what are a fathers rights regarding abortion if a mother wants abortion father does not want to have performed? Do men have any legal rights when it comes to preventing a woman from having an abortion? We will address these questions and others in this post.

With the 2022 reversal of Roe v. Wade, abortion may not be an option in some states

The option for a woman to have an abortion is based on the laws in the state where the abortion will be performed. In 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which was primarily based on a woman’s right to privacy and prohibited states from regulating abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy, among other provisions.

The Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (which overturned Roe v. Wade) cleared the way for states to decide whether to ban abortion or not, including at what stage of pregnancy and under what circumstances abortion would be allowed.

Post Dobbs v. Jackson, Texas is one of the states that enacted legislation that strictly restricts abortion. Also known as the “Heartbeat Law,” Texas Government Code Sec. 171.203 requires physicians to determine the presence of a fetal heart beat before providing an abortion. Sec. 171.204 goes on to prohibit abortion in Texas when a fetal heartbeat has been detected (generally believed to occur around 6 weeks after conception).

The only exception is explained in Texas Government Code Sec. 171.205, which exempts the abortion prohibition if a physician determines that a woman’s medical emergency necessitates an abortion. Texas has no abortion exemptions for cases of rape or incest.

Are there any laws pertaining to fathers rights regarding abortion in Texas?

Since laws regarding abortion in Texas are very restrictive in the first place, and some women don’t realize they are pregnant until after 6 weeks (when a fetal heartbeat is typically detected), fathers rights regarding abortion (if they had any) would appear to be a non-issue. Even before the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, Texas had no fathers rights abortion laws.

In Texas, like most other states, the expectant mother generally is (and has been) the parent with the authority to decide whether to keep her baby or have an abortion. Men who live in Texas and hope to convince the mother of an unborn child to go to a state to have an abortion where it is legal, should be aware that she alone has the right to decide whether to have an abortion or not.

Even if you are a father who lives in a state where abortion is legal, states typically don’t have fathers rights abortion laws that allow men to have a say in the matter. So, whether it’s a case where a woman is pregnant and father wants abortion or mother wants abortion father does not want to have performed, the father’s preference generally doesn’t matter from a legal perspective.

She wants an abortion but I’m willing to take full responsibility for the child. What can I do?

Again, you have no fathers rights regarding abortion, so unless the mother agrees not to have an abortion, there is no legal remedy you can pursue to stop her. Now, if she lives in Texas, she will have a difficult time finding a doctor to perform an abortion anyway, unless she goes to a state where abortion is legal to have the procedure performed.

If you can convince the mother to have the baby, relinquish custody and agree to have her parental rights formally terminated, there may be a path forward to you getting sole custody in Texas. However, one hurdle you could potentially face is the child’s mother could decide to keep the baby and not give you full custody once the baby is born.

For the baby’s sake, that could be a wonderful thing, as long as her intentions are good. In the meantime, if the mother of the baby does decide to go forward with the pregnancy, it’s critical to speak with a family law attorney about your options. He or she can explain what steps you can take to prepare for requesting and getting sole custody, as well as what challenges you could face if things don’t go as planned.

Keep in mind, you won’t be able to officially finalize custody of a child until after that child is born in Texas. Your family law attorney can help you determine when it would be appropriate to file a SAPCR (suit affecting the parent child relationship) in your particular case.

As a man, do I have any unplanned pregnancy fathers rights in Texas?

The reality is unplanned pregnancy fathers rights generally don’t exist in Texas. Instead, it is presumed that fathers should take responsibility for any child they are 50% responsible for creating. That responsibility includes child support in Texas, and in a perfect world, providing the love, care and nurturing every child deserves.

There are no laws established in Texas that reference male rights to opt-out of child support in unwanted pregnancies. And if you’re the father of an unborn child who is looking for a law firm to help you “opt out” of paying child support and otherwise neglect your parental obligations, the Sisemore Law Firm is not the law firm for you.

Like the state of Texas, we whole-heartedly believe it is in the best interest of a child to have both parents in the picture (unless one of the parents poses a threat to the child). Most children benefit from having a relationship with both parents (mom and dad, mom and mom, dad and dad) who each play an important role in contributing to a child’s emotional, psychological, physical and financial wellbeing.

What if I just terminate my parental rights, can I get out of paying child support?

Parental rights can be terminated in Texas but the reason that option is available here isn’t to make it easy for someone to avoid paying child support in Texas. As with other laws pertaining to children in Texas, terminating parental rights is something the state doesn’t take lightly.

It tends to be a step parties take to protect a child from a parent who poses a threat of some kind to the child or committed crimes against a child in the past. Texas Family Code Chapter 161, Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship, details the reasons a parent’s rights may be terminated.

(Again, if you’re a man who doesn’t want to take responsibility for your biological child and you want to terminate your parental rights to avoid paying child support, please call another law firm.)

So, in most cases, you can’t just hire a lawyer to terminate your own parental rights. If you choose not to play a role in your child’s life, you would still be responsible for paying child support. Now there are some cases where two parents can agree to eliminate child support through an agreed order in a SAPCR (suit affecting the parent-child relationship).

However, there are rare occasions where the state may still intervene and order child support anyway. That being said, an attorney could draft an order reflecting the agreement of the parties such to address that potential issue. The order would stipulate to the fact that both parties have the means to take care of the child without the support of the other party.

Parents should also keep in mind that circumstances can always change, and child support may be needed in the future. Should a change of circumstances occur, the parent seeking child support would need to file a request for modification with the court.

If you’re not ready to be a responsible parent, take precautions

When it comes to unplanned pregnancies, the key takeaway is that both parties need to be very careful about considering the consequences of getting into a situation where an unplanned pregnancy could occur. Otherwise, those parties may have to face the facts, which include:

  • You really can’t force the person you conceived a child with out of your life.
  • You can’t force a result (an abortion) that doesn’t yield a child. 
  • You could end up taking care of a child independently without resources and take on all the financial challenges alone, which happens all the time. Regardless of state mandated child support in Texas, some parents refuse to pay, and it can be challenging to collect.

People who don’t want to deal with the tough decisions, responsibilities and financial challenges that come with an unplanned pregnancy can take steps to avoid them. They can either use precautions (contraceptives are readily available) or abstain from having intimate relations with someone until they know that party would be a good person to raise a child with.

We can answer your questions about child custody in Texas

We know unplanned pregnancies happen every day. If you are a mother or father who has questions about child custody and child support for a child you love but didn’t plan, the family law attorneys at the Sisemore Law Firm are here to help.

To schedule a confidential case review with a family lawyer at our firm, please call (817) 336-4444 or connect with us online.

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