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How to Establish Paternity in Texas

When a married couple has a child, even without properly establishing paternity, people will automatically assume that the husband is the father. In order for that thought to be legally changed at court, ample evidence is necessary.

It’s different when an unmarried couple has a child, it is often necessary for one parent to establish the identity of the father of the child. This is very important because this is the fact that the child will have to grow up with. This also matters because the child will need support from the father, such as financial support.

Usually, despite being unmarried, the father would assume that his rights to the child are guaranteed even at the face of separation from the child’s mother.

Acknowledging Paternity

Usually, the acknowledgment of paternity is done at the hospital, after the child’s birth. There is an Acknowledgement of Paternity document that both parents can sign before it is submitted to the government office. When the father signs the documents, all doubts about paternity is put to rest, and the father’s name is added to the birth certificate, usually.

If the couple is not married, the father is informed of the rights and duties of a father before he signs the Acknowledgement of Paternity. Once he signs the document, only then can his name be added to the child’s birth certificate. The acknowledgment document is then submitted to the Bureau of Vital Statistics. Once they accept this document, the father’s name can be officially added to the birth certificate.

Other Ways of Establishing Paternity

Another way to establish paternity is through the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney general. This happens when the mother doesn’t really know who the father of the child is, or if either of the two refuses to sign the Acknowledgement document voluntarily. The office of the Attorney General will then have to conduct a paternity test, which is usually free.

Why You should Establish Paternity Legally

It is necessary to establish paternity so that the child can enjoy certain benefits. This includes health insurance, which they can avail through their father. Simply put, children with fathers can have a better life than those who do not. It is also important to establish paternity legally because in case the mother won’t abide by a Court Order related to the child’s welfare. Such a scenario is pretty common after a Texas divorce. The father can demand to enforce the Court Order if he has been established as the father of the child legally.

Different Types of Fathers

There are four different types of fathers: adjudicated, alleged, presumed and acknowledged.

An adjudicated father is a man who has been legally established as the father of the child. A man can only be considered as an adjudicated father after specific court proceedings. Before that, a lawsuit to determine and establish paternity must be filed by either the mother or the ‘alleged’ father of the child. The person who files the lawsuit will have the responsibility of proving paternity through DNA testing. An alleged father is someone who claims to be the father of the child.

An alleged father is a man who has been named as the father of a child but for whom paternity has not yet been legally established.

A presumed father is someone who is married to the mother of the child and the child is born during the marriage. Texas law presumes that this person is the father. This particular category comes up frequently in situations where a couple is married but separated, and have not yet gone through the process of getting a divorce, either because of hopes for reconciliation, or lack of need to.

An acknowledged father is one who signs the Acknowledgement of Paternity. If he thinks that he is actually NOT the father of the child, he can rescind his acknowledgment within 60 days from the time the acknowledgment was submitted to the Bureau of Vital Statistics.

What to Do when You are Not the Father

In the case where a man is already the legal father of the child and he believes that he is not the father of the child, a lawsuit can be filed to counter the established paternity. He should do this within one year from the time he found a reason to believe that he is not the father of the child. The court will conduct a hearing to gauge the strength of the man’s case. The judge can order DNA testing and if the DNA tests turn out negative, the rights and duties of the man as the child’s father will be terminated.

Once this happens, the mother of the child can try to establish paternity with the real father of the child. It may sound unfortunate but these scenarios do happen in Texas. Since it is a sensitive legal issue, it is best to hire a family law attorney to help you out if you are in this situation.

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Mr. Hutton is a Divorce and Custody Lawyer based out of Round Rock, TX. His background is with child psychology at Arizona State University where he received a B.S. in 2006, and he continued this by working with the Children’s Right’s Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law where he received his J.D. in 2009. Throughout his practice, he has been a strong proponent of utilizing modern technology to improve his practice and the representation of his clients. He currently is the technology chair of CAFA of Travis County and is committed to improving and modernizing the practice of law in Texas. If you have any questions you can contact him at