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Paternity refers to the legal standing of being a father to a child. The fact that a person is considered to be a child’s legal father means that he has certain rights and obligations in regards to that child. With paternity legally established, a father will be entitled to things such as custody and visitation rights and will also be obligated to provide support for the child.

How to Establish Paternity in Texas

In Texas, if the parents are married to each other when the child is born, paternity is considered to be automatically established. The husband will be considered to be the legal father and his name will appear on the birth certificate of the child. If the parents of the child are not married, however, the State of Texas will consider the child to be without a legal father until paternity is officially established. Once established, the legal father’s name will appear on the child’s birth certificate and the father will have all of the legal rights and responsibilities regarding the child.

Paternity can be voluntarily established in Texas through the execution of an Acknowledgement of paternity. Voluntarily established means that both the mother and father are in agreement that the father is the biological father. Both the father and mother are required to sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity. Most commonly, the Acknowledgment of Paternity is signed in the hospital right after the baby has been born.

Signing the Acknowledgement of Paternity in the hospital is not, however, required. It can be executed later and then mailed to the Vital Statistics Unit in Austin. You can get an Acknowledgment of Paternity form from the hospital, but you can also get one from the local birth registrar, as well as the Attorney General’s Child Support Office or the Vital Statistics Unity. If the hospital already mailed the birth certificate, a fee will be charged for changing the child’s birth certificate to include the father’s name.

Paternity can be involuntarily established in Texas through a court order. With involuntary establishment of paternity, someone disputes paternity. The court steps in to resolve the issue and has the authority to issue an “order adjudicating parentage.” Court proceedings can be initiated by the mother, the purported father, the child, or, if the child is receiving public assistance, by the state. The process begins through the filing of a “Petition to Adjudicate Parentage.” The petition must be filed in the county where the child resides.

Should the father fail to appear at the court proceeding, the court may still enter a “default order” declaring him to be the legal father. Should both the mother and father appear and court and agree that the father is in fact the biological father, then the court will enter an order adjudicating parentage right away. If the issue remains contested, the court is likely to order DNA testing and the court will issue an Order Adjudicating Parentage based on the results.

Family Law Attorneys

The legal establishment of paternity is important for so many reasons. It can change lives. If you have more questions about how to establish paternity in Texas, Navarrete & Schwartz has answers for you. We are proud to serve the residents of Midland, Texas. Contact us today.