Paternity is another term for fatherhood. In a legal context, establishing paternity means determining who the law considers to be the father of a child. This determination creates certain rights and responsibilities for that person with relation to the child. Every child has a biological father, but not every child may have a legal father.
Establishing paternity in Texas allows the child to be eligible for benefits like child support, health insurance, veteran survivor benefits, and Social Security. It also provides the father with legal rights concerning the child if the father and mother separate in the future.
How to Establish Paternity in Texas
A father can voluntarily establish paternity by signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) form. Both the mother and the father sign this form and file it with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit. The parents can complete this form before or after the child’s birth.
Often, the AOP form can be completed at the hospital when the child is born. It can also be completed at the county birth registrar’s office or the Office of the Attorney General. Other AOP certified entities may also be able to help you complete this form as well.
In situations where the parents cannot agree to complete an AOP form, then paternity can be established through a court order. This method specifically requests the court to issue an “order adjudicating parentage.” In such suit, the person who files the proceeding is generally seeking genetic testing to determine paternity. There is wisdom in filing such suit if a woman has alleged a man to be a father and he is uncertain if the child is his child.
The mother, father, and sometimes the child can initiate this proceeding. In this type of situation, one of three things can happen after you file your “Petition to Adjudicate Parentage.”
- The father will fail to appear. If the father fails to appear, then the court will enter a default judgment. Because the father did not appear to contest the claim, the judge will determine that he is the legal father and will enter an order accordingly, following sworn testimony regarding the relationship between the parties at the time of the child’s conception.
- The father appears and does not contest the order. If the father appears and agrees that he is the biological father, the court will enter an order adjudicating parentage immediately, although the court will likely encourage genetic testing.
- The father appears and contests the order. If the father appears and does not believe he is the biological father of the child or desires genetic testing to confirm that he is the father of the child, he can request genetic testing. In situations like these, the child and the man alleged to be the father will undergo DNA testing to determine whether the man that appeared is the child’s father. The court will enter an order based on the results of the DNA test.
The Court enters orders regarding child support, visitation, and conservatorship during these types of proceedings as well.
Throughout this process, both parents have the right to an attorney. It can be extremely helpful to have the Hollwarth Law Firm on your side during this proceeding, so you fully understand your rights and responsibilities. Give us a call today to learn how we can help with your paternity dispute.