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What steps do I need to take to establish the paternity of my child in Texas?

The birth of a child is a time of excitement and joy.  While a new baby will likely preoccupy your mind with concerns over feedings, diapers, and sleep, it is important for unmarried couples in Texas to take steps to establish paternity for their child.  Establishing paternity is a critical step all parents must take to create a legal relationship between a father and his child.  Our Midland, Texas family law attorneys discuss the importance of paternity and ways to establish it below.  

What is Paternity?

The word “paternity” means fatherhood.  In the legal realm, establishing paternity refers to naming a child’s legal father, which comes with accompanying rights and obligations.   Paternity will be established automatically if the parents are married at the time of the child’s birth.  However, if a child’s parents are not wed at the time of his or her birth, the child is not considered to have a legal father unless paternity is established.  

Why is it Important to Establish Paternity?

Establishing paternity creates vital rights for the father, mother, and child. Establishing paternity could allow the child access to benefits, like life insurance and Social Security, along with medical insurance.  For mothers, establishing paternity allows the father to share in the costs and responsibilities of parenthood.  With a legal father named, the mother can seek child support if she is no longer in a relationship with the father.  For fathers, establishing paternity creates critical legal rights to the child, such as being able to seek custody or visitation.  For these reasons, it is generally in the best interests of all involved parties to establish paternity early on.

How Can I Establish Paternity in Texas?

In Texas, it is possible to establish paternity voluntarily or involuntarily through a court order.  If both parents agree that the father is in fact the biological father, they can sign an “Acknowledgement of Paternity.”  This is often done at the time of birth and, once filed, will allow the father to sign the birth certificate and assume all the legal rights of a father.

Involuntary establishment is more complex and will require a court proceeding.  Often, these cases arise when paternity is disputed and DNA testing may be required.  Mothers or fathers looking to establish paternity involuntarily will need to consult with an experienced family law attorney in Texas.