An Acknowledgment of Paternity is a way to establish the paternity of a child. Paternity is the legal recognition of a child’s father. If the father of a child is not legally recognized, he will have no rights with regard to the child and no obligation to provide support.
Paternity is presumed when a father is married to the mother of the child at the time of birth, but in other situations paternity must be established in order to create a legal relationship between a father and child.
What Happens When a Child is Born with Unmarried Parents?
A child born to unmarried parents in Texas will not have a legal father until paternity is established. The biological father will have no right to child custody or visitation with the child. Nor will the father have access to legal or medical information about the child.
The benefits that normally pass to a child from a parent will not be available from the father to the child without legal recognition. And the father will not be able to participate in the making of important decisions with regard to the welfare or future of the child.
How Paternity is Established
Paternity will either be presumed from the marital status of the mother prior to the child’s birth or the relationship of the father to the child following the child’s birth. If paternity is not presumed, it must be established by a legal process.
Paternity is presumed when:
- The man is married to the child’s mother when the child is born.
- The man was divorced from the child’s mother within 300 days of the child’s birth.
- The man lived with the child continuously during the first two years of the child’s life and represented himself as the child’s father.
In all other situations, the father and mother of the child must either complete an Acknowledgment of Paternity or appear before a judge in court to establish paternity.
Filing an Acknowledgment of Paternity
An Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) is a document that unmarried parents can complete and file with the Vital Statistics Section (VSS) of the Texas Department of State Health Services. Both parents of the child are required to sign the form and they can only work with specially trained people, titled AOP-certified entities, who are authorized to help parents complete and file the AOP.
The AOP is a legal document, and the persons who complete it are sworn to tell the truth. Once signed, it has the same effect as a court order establishing paternity. The form asks if the child in question has a presumed father, another acknowledged father, or a father named in a court order. If genetic testing has been done, it must show that the man seeking acknowledgment is the biological father.
An AOP can be completed and filed before a child’s birth and will be valid for any child born up to 300 days from the date the document is signed. There is no age restriction for completing an Acknowledgment of Paternity, and a father under the age of 18 may execute a legally enforceable AOP without parental consent.
How to Get an Acknowledgment of Paternity When a Child Has a Presumed Father
The only way to get an AOP if a child has a presumed father is for the presumed father to deny paternity of the child. There is a section within the AOP form that the child’s mother and presumed father must complete in order to deny paternity. The mother must agree the presumed father is not the biological father of the child.
A Denial of Paternity (DOP) will be valid so long as the man seeking the order has:
- Not previously be acknowledged as the father of the child
- Not previously been named as the child’s father in a court order
When an Acknowledgment of Paternity can be Revoked
After paternity has been acknowledged, information may become available that contradicts the acknowledged father’s paternity. Under Texas law, an AOP or DOP can be rescinded within 60 days of being filed or before a court proceeding related to the child is filed – whichever occurs first.
If the opportunity to rescind is missed or prevented, a lawsuit challenging the AOP can be filed but only on the grounds of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact in signing the document.
Why an Acknowledgment of Paternity Benefits Fathers and Children
Establishing paternity with an AOP supports the development of a bond between a father and child and conveys legal rights that would not otherwise be available. It gives a child a sense of identity and belonging to have a legal father. It also makes the child eligible to receive support payments, inherit as a lineal descendant, and qualify as a beneficiary under a father’s medical insurance, Social Security benefits, or Veteran’s benefits.
By acknowledging paternity, a father can have his name appear on a child’s birth certificate. He can legally request custody or visitation with the child. A recognized father will be able to access any medical or other protected information pertaining to the child. He may also have the right to participate in decision-making regarding the child.
An Acknowledgment of Paternity helps families build stronger relationships and gives them access to the resources necessary to promote the healthy development of children. Contact us to find out how our Pearland paternity lawyers can help you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Acknowledgment of Paternity
Do I need a lawyer to file an Acknowledgment of Paternity?
No, you don’t need an attorney to complete and file an Acknowledgment of Paternity. But you are required to work with an AOP-certified entity – which may be an attorney – in order to complete the form.
What happens if the mother of my child won’t sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity?
An Acknowledgment of Paternity needs both the signature of the mother and the father of the child to be valid. If the mother of the child refuses to sign the document, then a court proceeding will be required in order to establish paternity and you should speak with a family law attorney.
Will my name be on my child’s birth certificate if I am not married to the mother?
No, in Texas, paternity must be presumed or established before a father’s name will appear on a child’s birth certificate. A father who is not married to the mother at the time of his child’s birth will either have to file an Acknowledgment of Paternity or go through a court proceeding to establish paternity.