Paternity reveals on tabloid talk shows often illustrate a more explosive dynamic between mothers and fathers. In everyday life, establishing paternity is not always so dramatic. Fathers or mothers wanting to establish paternity should work with a skilled attorney and keep the fireworks on TV.
Texas law has established how paternity is determined. The paternity – legal father – of a child from an unmarried couple is not as straightforward as it is for married couples in Texas.
Defining Legal Paternity
When an opposite-sex couple is married, the legal paternity of a newborn is assumed to be the husband. His name is listed on the birth certificate as the father. In Texas, a child born out of wedlock has no legal father until paternity is established. Once that happens, the father’s name is added to the child’s birth certificate and the father will gain certain parental rights.
There are two ways to establish legal paternity in Texas.
Voluntary Establishment of Paternity
A father can voluntarily establish paternity by signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity. This form can be completed at the hospital when the child is born or signed later. In addition to getting the form at the hospital, a parent can obtain one at the local birth registrar, the state’s Vital Statistics Unit, and the Attorney General’s Child Support Office.
The Acknowledgement of Paternity is generally completed when there is no argument over the identity of the father, and the father wants to exercise their parental rights. To establish legal custody or visitation, signing the form is not enough. The father should work with an experienced paternity attorney for a court to order visitation and other rights. Mothers would have to do the same to obtain court-ordered child support.
Involuntary Establishment of Paternity
Unfortunately, not all situations are as simple as signing the Acknowledgement form. Sometimes there is a paternity dispute. In these cases, the mother, the father, or the child can file a Petition to Adjudicate Parentage in the county where the child resides. The mother and father have the right to legal representation at any stage of the process to establish paternity.
There are three possible outcomes:
- The petitioned party is a no-show. The petitioned party will be given notice to appear in a court hearing. If they do not, the judge can enter a default judgment declaring the man the legal father in their absence.
- The petitioned party agrees on parentage. If the father and mother appear in court and they both agree he is the father, the judge will order the adjudicating parentage at the hearing.
- One party denies paternity. When either the mother or potential father denies paternity at the hearing, the court can order a DNA test. The man, the woman, and the child will all have their cheeks swabbed. The DNA samples are sent to a laboratory for analysis. Depending on the results, the father may or may not be legally named and added to the birth certificate. When parentage is confirmed, the court can also issue orders of custody, child support, and visitation.
Benefits of Legal Paternity
Establishing paternity is good for the child, the father, and the mother.
Legal paternity helps a child in the following ways:
- They have access to medical insurance through their father.
- They can access benefits through the father like Social Security and Veterans benefits.
- They have a legal claim for inheritance through their father.
- They can establish a relationship with both parents.
- They have more information about their genetic history.
Fathers benefit from paternity in numerous ways:
- Fathers gain legal rights, such as visitation.
- Fathers can build a relationship with their child.
- Fathers can participate in activities and milestones throughout the child’s life.
How paternity helps moms includes the following:
- Mothers have additional financial support for raising the child.
- Mothers have help in decisions related to the child.
Legal Counsel to Help Establish Paternity in Katy
Our award-winning law firm has almost 85 years of combined experience helping families and individuals in all family law matters. We understand the sensitive nature of paternity cases and work through the emotional and legal aspects with compassion and confidentiality.
The legal issues we address in a paternity case include:
- Helping establish the identity of the biological father
- Determining child support payments connected to the paternity process
- Resolving custody disputes that surface once paternity is determined
The Springer Law Firm can help mothers and fathers discreetly establish paternity. Contact us at (281) 990-6025 or use our online form to schedule your consultation.