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Paternity, in the legal sense, refers to a child’s legal father. Being the legal father of a child comes with important rights and responsibilities. In Texas, when parents are married to each other at the time the child is born, the husband is automatically established as the child’s legal father. His name will be put on the child’s birth certificate. If, in Texas, the child’s parents are not married at the time of birth, then paternity must be established for the child to have a legal father. “Establishment of paternity” refers to the process of establishing the legal father of the child. Establishing paternity of a child can have a few different ways.

How is Paternity Established in Texas?

In Texas, when the father and mother agree on paternity of the child, paternity can be established through voluntarily signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity form. Both the mother and the father must sign this form. It is commonly done at the hospital after the child is born. The form, however, does not need to be signed at the hospital. It can be signed later and then mailed to the Vital Statistics Unit located in Austin. The problem with waiting until later to execute the form is that, if the hospital has already mailed the birth certificate, there will be a fee associated with changing the birth certificate so that the father’s name is included.

Should either the mother or the father dispute paternity, paternity can still be established involuntarily through the court. The court can issue an “order adjudicating parentage” to establish paternity. Such a court process can be initiated by the mother, father, child, or even the state in the event that the child is receiving public assistance. The process can begin by filing a “Petition to Adjudicate Parentage” in the county where the child resides.

Upon the filing of the petition, all relevant parties are provided with notice of the action. If the father fails to appear in court, the judge can still enter a default order in his absence and declare him to be the child’s legal father. Should the father appear in court and the father and the mother end up agreeing that he is the father, the court will go ahead and enter an order adjudicating parentage. Should the mother or the father proceed with denying paternity, then the court can order DNA testing which requires that the child, mother, and purported father have the inside of their cheeks swabbed and submitted for testing. Should the test results show that the purported father is actually the child’s biological father, then the court will establish him as the legal father of the child. At adjudication of paternity hearings, the court can also issue orders relating to custody, visitation, and child support.

Family Law Attorneys

Paternity carries serious legal rights and responsibilities pertaining to a child. For help navigating these sensitive issues and more, talk to the trusted family law attorneys at Navarrete & Schwartz. We are proud to serve the residents of Midland, Texas. Contact us today.