Establishing paternity will benefit the child, the father, and the entire family. In the legal context, “establishing paternity” refers to a legal determination of a child’s “legal” father. While every child has a biological father, not every child has a “legal” father. When paternity is established, someone is named the legal father of a child.
Paternity is the legal definition of fatherhood and must be proven in order to begin the child support process. When a child is born out of wedlock in Texas, paternity must be proven before legal action can be taken to seek support from the child’s father. Likewise, if you are the father and want to maintain your parental rights, you must legally establish those rights with proof of paternity. The parent-child relationship can suffer when the matter of paternity has not been established through the proper legal channels, and a parent may give up considerable legal rights.
Types of Potential Texas Fathers
If paternity is not clearly established, the potential father could fall into one of four possible categories, influencing a case:
- Alleged Father: A man is alleged to be the father but is not officially recognized, so the person claiming the man is the father must prove his paternity.
- Presumed Father: A man is presumed to be the father because of an existing relationship must file to prove he is not the father.
- Acknowledged Father: A man has a legal relationship with the child, but the document may be challenged in court.
- Adjudicated Father: A man’s paternity has been established in court.
Three Ways to Establish Paternity in Texas
In Texas, paternity is automatically established if the parents are married to each other when the child is born. The husband is automatically the legal father and his name goes on the birth certificate. If the parents of a child are not married to each other when the child is born, the child has no legal father until paternity is established. Once paternity is established, the father’s name will be placed on the child’s birth certificate and he will gain parental rights.
In general, there are three legal options for establishing parentage in Texas:
- Marriage: There is a legal presumption a child born to a marriage is the offspring of the spouses. The same is true if a single mother becomes pregnant, but weds before the baby is born.
- Acknowledgment of Paternity: If the parents agree on the identity of the father, they can execute a legal document called an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP), which becomes official when both parents sign. The parents must also file the AOP with the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics.
- Paternity Lawsuit in Court: If parents do not agree on the identity of the child’s father, it is necessary to file a paternity suit in court. Part of the court proceedings may include getting a DNA test to determine parentage.
Austin, Texas Paternity Attorneys
Our Austin paternity attorney team will represent your rights and interests in a paternity case, whether you are a mother seeking to establish paternity or you are a father being denied access to your child. We also defend paternity suits in cases where men, who are not the legal or biological fathers, are pursued for child support. For more information on how we can help, contact us today.