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Paternity refers to fatherhood. To establish paternity refers to the legal process of determining a child’s legal father. The legal father of a child has certain rights and responsibilities in relation to the child. While every child has a biological father, not every child has a legal father. In Texas, when parents are married to each other at the time of a child’s birth, the husband is established as the legal father by default and his name will be put on the birth certificate. If the parents are unmarried at the time of the child’s birth, then the child does not have a legal father and certain legal processes must be utilized to establish paternity.

How Can You Establish Paternity in Texas?

In Texas, paternity can be established voluntarily or involuntarily. If both the mother and father agree that the father is the biological father of the child, then paternity can be voluntarily established. Both the mother and the father must sign an “Acknowledgment of Paternity.” This is most commonly done at the hospital after the child’s birth.

In the alternative, the Acknowledgment of Paternity may signed after the child’s birth and mailed to the Vital Statistics Unit in Austin. If the hospital has already mailed the birth certificate, then a fee will be charged for changing the birth certificate to reflect the child’s father’s name. You can obtain an Acknowledgment of Paternity form from the hospital, the birth registrar, the Child Support Office of the Attorney General, or the Vital Statistics Unit.

In cases where there is not an agreement as to paternity, paternity may be established involuntarily through the court system. This is done through a paternity suit where the court may issue an “order adjudicating parentage.” A paternity suit may be brought by the mother, the father, or the child. If the child is on some type of public assistance, the state can also initiate a paternity suit through filing a “Petition to Adjudicate Parentage.” The petition must be filed in the country where the child resides.

Once the petition is filed, notice must be provided to all relevant parties, including the purported father. Should the father fail to appear in court, the judge may enter a “default order.” The default order would essentially declare him the legal father. Should the purported father appear in court and the mother and father have come to an agreement that he is the biological father, the judge will enter an Order Adjudicating Parentage.

Should the case end up in court and there is still no agreement between the mother and father on who is the biological father of the child, then the court will likely order DNA testing. To conduct the DNA test, a lab will need the inside cheeks of the child, mother, and purported father swabbed. If the DNA results find that the purported father is, in fact, the biological father of the child, then the court will issue an order adjudicating parentage. The purported father will be established as the legal father of the child and he will be granted all rights and responsibilities associated with that. The court can also take this time to address related issues such as issuing orders relating to custody and visitation, as well as child support.

Family Law Attorneys

Legally establishing paternity is an important step in the lives of parents and children. Paternity bestows critical legal rights of a father to his child. Should you seek the establishment of paternity or contest establishment of paternity, Navarrete & Schwartz is here to provide you with sound legal counsel. We are proud to serve the residents of Midland, Texas. Contact us today.