At one time, having a child out of wedlock was something to be avoided whenever possible. Today, however, the social stigma that was once associated with a child born to unmarried parents has all but gone away. In fact, many women (and couples) are intentionally choosing not to marry before having a child. In the United States, the number of births occurring outside of marriage has increased from 28 percent in 1990 to 40 percent in 2018. If you are the parent of a child born out of wedlock, you need to understand the legal status of both you and your child. Toward that end, Dallas family law lawyer Rita M. Boyd explains what you need to know about paternity in Texas.
What Is Paternity and Why Does It Matter?
Paternity is a legal term that refers to the legal relationship between a child and father. Both parents may have no doubt who a child’s biological father is; however, if the parents were not legally married at the time of the child’s birth the father is not the child’s legal father until paternity has been formally established.
For the mother, establishing paternity serves to legally obligate the father to financially support the child until he/she reaches the age of majority. For the father, paternity established the right to spend time with the child and provide input on important decisions relating to the child. Finally, for the child, establishing paternity provides concrete proof that the father cared enough to legally be recognized as the child’s father.
The Father’s Name on the Birth Certificate Does Not Establish Paternity
Parents often operate under the misconception that simply putting the father’s name on a child’s birth certificate serves to legally establish paternity. While including the father’s name is a good idea for other reasons, it does not establish paternity. On the other hand, failing to put the father’s name on the child’s birth certificate does not prevent you from establishing paternity.
Establishing Paternity in Texas?
Each state decides how paternity of a child may be established in that state. Most states, including Texas, offer a simple, voluntary path as well as a more difficult, involuntary path to establish paternity.
- Establishing paternity by agreement. When paternity is not disputed by either parent, an Acknowledgement of Paternity form can be filled out and submitted to the state. Most hospitals will offer the form to parents at the time of birth; however, it can also be filled out and sent in after the fact. If you choose not to complete the Acknowledgment of Paternity at the time of the child’s birth you will also need to change the child’s birth certificate and pay the corresponding fee for doing so when you the affidavit is filed.
- Establishing paternity through the legal system. If either parent disputes paternity, paternity can be established involuntarily through the legal system. A Petition to Adjudicate Paternity can be filed by the mother, the putative father, the child, or by the State of Texas if the child is receiving benefits from the State, such as Medicaid or SNAP. The alleged (putative) father is notified, and a hearing is set to determine paternity. If the putative father fails to appear he could be declared the father by default. If both parents show up, they still have the option to agree to paternity; however, either the mother or the putative father denies paternity, the court will order a DNA test. Either by agreement or based on a positive DNA test the court will ultimately enter an Order Adjudicating Paternity establishing the man as the child’s legal father.
Contact a Dallas Family Law Lawyer
If you have additional questions or concerns about establishing or disputing paternity in Texas, contact an experienced Dallas family law lawyer at Rita M. Boyd, P.C. to discuss your legal rights and options by calling 972-380-8000 to schedule your appointment today.