Paternity

The word paternity means the identity of the father of a child. A man is presumed to be the legal father of a child if he was married to the mother at the time of the birth of the child. Unless paternity is established, a child born to an unwed mother has no legal father. Except in rare circumstances, when a woman gives birth to a child, she is considered to be the legal mother of that child. Every child also has a biological father. But if you were never married to the mother of your child, Texas does not recognize your parental rights but it also does not enforce your parental responsibilities until paternity is established. This can be accomplished in many ways. A man can simply file with the Paterinty Registry, sign the child´s birth certificate, or get a court order.

The single biggest advantage of getting a court order is that the rights and duties are not only set out on paper, they are ordered by the Judge and as such, enforceable by contempt and assistance is available through any peace officer if there is a writ of attachment included in the orders.

The decision to voluntarily acknowledge paternity should not be taken lightly because it is an important one for both you and your child. If you are absolutely sure that you are the father of the child, and the mother agrees, you should both voluntarily acknowledge paternity. If you and the mother are unable to reach an agreement about visitation with the child or other rights such as the right to see your child’s school or medical records, you will still have to go to court. And do not think that because the two of you can agree now you will never need a court order. A vast number of our clients come to us after years of “getting along with the mother” and the agreements always stop at an inconvenient time. In fact, get engaged or buy a new car, buy a house, etc. and see how fast the agreement is no longer acceptable. It is not “if” it is “when” the agreement stop that make getting court orders prudent.

A man has a right to DNA testing.

If a mother or the State claims that you are the father of a child, you may want to take a genetic test to make sure you are the biological father. A genetic test is the best way to be absolutely sure that you are the biological father of the child. Since the 1980s, very accurate genetic tests have been developed. If you are not sure that you are the father, you should insist on a genetic test to determine whether you are the father of the child. If the test shows you are the father, the court will likely order you to repay the cost of the test.

Frequently asked questions about Paternity in Texas.

HOW CAN I BE LISTED AS THE FATHER ON MY BABY?S BIRTH CERTIFICATE?

Under Texas law, if you were married to the mother of the child when the child was born, your name will automatically appear on the baby’s birth certificate as the father of the child. If you were not married to the mother of the child, there are two ways to have your name added to the birth certificate: 1. By voluntarily signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity form; or 2. By a court order.

I AM UNDER 18. IF I SIGN AN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF PATERNITY FORM, WILL THAT MAKE ME THE LEGAL FATHER OF THE CHILD?

Yes. Under the Texas voluntary acknowledgment laws, there is no difference in how the government treats an adult or minor who signs an Acknowledgment of Paternity.

WHAT IF, AFTER SIGNING THE ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF PATERNITY, I HAVE REASON TO BELIEVE I AM NOT THE FATHER?

If you sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity and you later decide you may not be the father, there are ways for you to withdraw your signing of the form. However, this is most easily done within 60 days of signing by filing a Petition to Rescind. You may only file a Petition to Rescind if you have not been part of a court case concerning the child. Otherwise, you have to file in the District Court to get DNA and a declaration that you are not the father, but you will remain liable for child support accrued before the filing and you must file this within 2 years of learning information that would cause a reasonable man to question paternity.

WHAT IF I THOUGHT I WAS THE FATHER AT DIVORCE, AND LATER LEARNED I AM NOT?

The Texas Legislature promulgated a new law effective September 1, 2011 that provides a man who is previously adjudicated a father may file a motion to declare paternity and terminate the parent-child relationship (assuming DNA is negative for paternity) but there is a limitation on when the Petition can be filed. The man must file the petition not later than 2 years after learning information that reasonably causes the man to question paternity. Furthermore, the law provides that even if the man ws declared a father due to fraud by the mother (she is presumed to have known) the man remains liable for child support and medical support accrued (paid or unpaid) before the petition is filed.

WHAT IF THE MOTHER WILL NOT LET ME SEE MY CHILD(REN)?

This is the very reason you need Court Orders. A mother and a father are equal until a court says otherwise, but “possession is 9/10´s of the law” and that adage is true in child custody cases too. You may have rights, but the problem you face is the criminal charge of disturbing the peace if Mom does not simply let you take the kids.

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