What is Paternity?
Every child that is born has a biological father, but not every child has a legal father.
If a child is born to married parents in Texas, the law automatically recognizes the husband as the legal father. No further steps need to be taken. However, if a child is born to unmarried parents, the biological father does not automatically become the legal father.
How is Paternity Established in Texas When the Parents Are Not Married?
Paternity must be established through a legal process.
There are two methods of establishing paternity in Tarrant County, Texas.
1. Acknowledgment of Paternity
The first and easiest option is for both parents to properly sign and file the Acknowledgment of Paternity form with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit. Typically, parents complete this form at the hospital immediately after the child’s birth. You can get a copy of the Acknowledgment of Paternity form from the hospital, the local birth registrar, the Attorney General’s Child Support Office, or the Vital Statistics Unit. The form is a legal document and signed under penalty of perjury.
Once filed, paternity is established, and the father’s name is added to the child’s birth certificate. If you change your mind, you can file a petition to rescind within the first 60 days after the Bureau of Vital Statistics receives the petition or before a legal proceeding related to the child is initiated, whichever comes first.
If the mother was married to another person when the child was born (or the child was born within 300 days of the date of divorce), the husband (or ex-husband) is the presumed legal father. In these situations, you cannot use the Acknowledgment of Paternity form unless the presumed father also signs and files a Denial of Paternity form.
2. Court Order
The second method of establishing paternity is through a court order. The paternity suit can either be voluntary or involuntary.
In a voluntary paternity suit, both parents agree that paternity should be established. The parents agree to specific rights about custody, visitation, child support, and medical support and sign an agreed paternity order. The parents must send the proposed order to the court for approval.
In an involuntary paternity suit, one party is disputing paternity. A paternity suit can be filed by the mother, an individual who believes that he is the father, or a government agency if the child is receiving assistance. The court can order the mother, father, and child to submit to DNA testing. Most often, this takes the form of a blood test or a buccal swab, where cells are wiped from the inside of the mouth with a cotton swab. After the court establishes paternity, it can address issues of custody, visitation, and support.
Paternity suits can be complicated, and the outcome can change your entire life. It is in your best interest to take it seriously and work with an experienced family law attorney.
When Can you Bring a Paternity Suit to Texas?
If there is no presumed father (the mother was not married to anyone when the child was born), a paternity suit can be brought at any time.
If there is a presumed father, a paternity suit must be brought within four years of the child’s birth unless:
• The presumed biological mother and father did not live together or engage in sexual relations during the likely time of conception, or
• The presumed father was misled to believe he was the father.
Why Should I Establish Paternity?
Without paternity, the law will not recognize the legal relationship between you and your child. The benefits of having a legal relationship are far-reaching and should not be overlooked.
First, parents often underestimate the emotional impact that making a relationship legal can have on a child. It can provide them with an identity and improve the parental relationship as well as improving the relationship with the father’s extended family.
Additionally, only after paternity is established can the court order an individual to pay child support or grant custody and visitation rights.
Finally, paternity opens that child up to additional benefits, including health insurance, social security, and veterans’ benefits.
The Law Office Of Craig S. Michalk provides experienced legal counsel in all areas of family law; including divorce, child custody, child support, paternity, adoptions, modifications, enforcements, and name changes.
We represent clients in the Tarrant County, Texas communities of Arlington, Azle, Bedford, Colleyville, Euless, Fort Worth, Grand Prairie, Grapevine, Haltom City, Haslet, Hurst, Keller, Lake Worth, Mansfield, North Richland Hills, Richland Hills, Roanoke, Saginaw, Southlake, and Watauga.
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