Establishing paternity in Texas: The how and why

These days, the concept of the "traditional" family is fading in popularity. Yet, while the families of today come in many variations, the default family laws could cause some individuals to slip through the cracks in legal affairs concerning children.

Under Texas law, the child of a man and woman who are unmarried has no legal father. Establishing paternity can be very important for a number of reasons. Whether you are the mother or the biological father of a child who does not have a legal father, a better understanding of Texas paternity laws can help you decide how you should proceed.

Legal fathers have enforceable rights and responsibilities

Why is paternity important? The legal father of a child has a number of rights and responsibilities. There are no legal avenues for enforcing the responsibilities or vindicating the rights of a biological father who has not been established as a child's legal father.

For example, courts may order a legal father to pay child support. A legal father may turn to the courts to enforce visitation or child custody rights. A child might be able to receive health insurance or certain government benefits through the establishment of paternity. Beyond the legal benefits of establishing paternity, there are also practical benefits for the child, like knowing a child's family medical history on the father's side, giving the child a sense of identity by knowing who his or her father is, and protecting the child from poor choices of the mother that harm the child.

Paternity can be established at birth, but disagreements may have to be resolved in court

Paternity may be established at the time of birth if both parents properly sign and file an Acknowledgment of Paternity. The Acknowledgement of Paternity will establish the man who signed it as the child's biological father. If either the mother or the alleged father changes his or her mind about signing the Acknowledgment of Paternity, a petition to rescind it may be filed but only within the first 60 days after the Acknowledgment of Paternity has been received by the Bureau of Vital Statistics. If the parents did not sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity at the time of birth, paternity may be later established in a paternity suit.

Either the mother of the child or the man who believes he is the father of the child may file an action to establish paternity. In some instances, the man who may have been presumed to be the father or who formerly thought he was the father files a suit to contest his identity as the true father of a child (in Texas, a man who is married to the mother at the time of birth is automatically considered to be the child's legal father; there are special rules to establish paternity if the biological father is someone other than the husband).

Contact a Texas family law attorney about your paternity action

Establishing paternity can be very important for both the child and the parents. If you need help with a paternity action, a Texas family law attorney can be your advocate and your guide through the complex legal process. Get in touch with an experienced and qualified Texas family law attorney today to explore your legal options in a paternity suit.