When a baby is born to a married couple in Texas, the law automatically recognizes 2 legal parents. If the child is born to an unmarried woman, paternity must be established. Paternity is important because it gives the child a legal connection to their father and helps decide matters of child custody, parenting time, health care coverage, and child support. Parents must also establish a legal father before they may add his name to a birth certificate.
Paternity Through Marriage
Legally married couples do not have to establish paternity. If the baby is born within their marriage, the law presumes the husband is the baby’s legal father. There are no additional steps to establish paternity.
In some situations, the presumed father is not the child’s genetic or biological father. When this is the case, the presumed father may file a Denial of Paternity (DOP). To be valid, however, the child’s mother and genetic father must also sign and file an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP).
In cases of mistaken paternity, a legal father who questions his paternity may also choose to file a petition asking the court to terminate his parent-child relationship. Both the legal father and the child must submit to genetic testing. If this testing reveals that the legal father is NOT the child’s biological father, the court will terminate the man’s obligation for child support, as well as the parent-child relationship.
Acknowledgement of Paternity
Unlike married couples, unmarried couples must sign a legal form if they wish to establish paternity. Unmarried couples who agree about their baby’s biological parents may establish paternity without going to court by signing and filing an Acknowledgement of Paternity.
Some difficulties may emerge if the mother is married to someone who is not the biological father (see above), if the mother and father cannot complete the AOP at the same time, or if anyone who signs an AOP changes their mind within the first 60 days of filing.
If parents disagree on paternity, either parent may file a paternity petition in court asking that an alleged father be named the legal father. Usually, the court will order DNA testing and use the results to name the legal father.
From there, the parents will have to establish conservatorship, child support, medical support, and possession orders. These court orders help determine both parents’ rights and responsibilities towards their child.
Mistaken paternity, court-ordered paternity and all the issues that follow can be challenging and contentious, but an experienced family lawyer can help.
Kay Polk, Attorney at Law has been handling paternity cases since 2000 and focuses exclusively on cases like yours. When you call our firm, your satisfaction becomes our priority.
Let us put our resources and experience on your side – call us at (713) 234-6260 or contact us today to get through this chapter, together.