Did you marry your child's mother after your child was born? Are you and your life partner unmarried? Don't assume you have all rights you need or want as a father. In Texas, if you are - or believe you are - the father of a child, you must legally establish paternity in order to exercise your rights as a father.
Why establishing paternity is important
If a child's parents are not married, the dad does not automatically have legal rights as the father. Paperwork must be filed even when everyone knows he is their child's dad. This is especially important if the couple later splits.
Establishing paternity is essential to obtaining custody or visitation rights. Paternity is necessary for a father to have his name on his child's birth certificate and to prevent a mother from giving a child born out of wedlock up for adoption without the father's consent.
You can establish that you are your child's father by filing certain legal documents:
- Acknowledgement of paternity: An AOP is a legal document that both parents must sign in order to establish who the father of a child is. It can be signed at any time before or after the birth of the child.
- Agreed paternity order: A father may establish his rights with a court order. The document requires the signature of both parents and the judge and contains details about child support, medical support, custody and visitation, terms agreed upon by both parents.
- Court-ordered paternity. When parents do not agree on a child's paternity, they must get a court order. This process establishes the identity of the father through a DNA test and specifies his rights regarding visitation, custody, medical support and child support.
Presumed to be the father?
Paternity of a child may be presumed in certain circumstances. For example, if you were married to - or attempted to marry - your child's mother when your child was conceived or born, you may be the presumed father. However, there are some assumptions you cannot make. If you marry the mother after your child is born, you still have to file paperwork or formally agree to certain responsibilities.
Both parents should be able to have a relationship with their child, and Texas paternity laws are complicated. If you are a father seeking to establish paternity and assert your parental rights, a family law attorney can advise you of the appropriate legal steps to take.