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Fathers play an important role in the lives of their children. If you are the father of a child, you deserve to have custody of or access to your child regardless of the status of your relationship with the child’s mother. You can protect your rights only if you are established as the physical or legal father of the child.

Even if there is no dispute and both parties are in agreement, there is still a process that needs to be used to establish paternity. This process is called adjudication (via court order) or acknowledgment (voluntary action) of paternity. Unless and until paternity is established, you will be unable to obtain a court order for custody or visitation.

Establishing Paternity in Texas

In Texas, paternity can be established voluntarily or involuntarily. When a child is born to parents who are not married to each other, the biological father must take the necessary steps to formally acknowledge his paternity. When both parents agree the father is in fact the biological father, paternity can be established voluntarily. This requires both the father and mother to sign what’s called an “Acknowledgment of Paternity.” This is often done at the hospital when the child is born.

Involuntary establishment of paternity in Texas is done through a court proceeding where the court issues an “order adjudicating parentage.” This method of establishing paternity is designated as “involuntary” because one party disputes the paternity claim, which brings the issue before the court.

The mother, the father, the child, or the state (if the child is receiving public assistance) can begin the court process by filing a “Petition to Adjudicate Parentage” in the county where the child lives. If after receiving appropriate notice of the court proceeding, the father doesn’t appear in court, the judge can enter a “default order” in his absence, declaring him the legal father.

If either the mother or the father denies or is uncertain of paternity, the court may order DNA testing. Today, a DNA test requires the child, mother, and father have the inside of their cheeks swabbed. If the DNA test shows the court the father is in fact the biological father, it will issue an order adjudicating parentage, making the father the legal father; at that point, his name will be added to the child’s birth certificate. Within the proceeding to determine paternity, the court can also issue orders of custody, visitation, and child support.

Brazoria County Paternity Lawyers

Establishing paternity allows your child to receive the financial resources they need to have a good life. Whether you are a mother trying to establish the paternity of your child or you are a father seeking to formalize your parental rights so you can be a part of your child’s life, the paternity lawyers of Terry & Roberts can help.

Frequently Asked Questions About Paternity

What is paternity?

Paternity is the legal identification of a child’s father. If a child’s parents are unmarried, the father does not have any legal rights to the child until paternity is established by filing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity (VOP) or by court order.

Is having the father’s name on a Texas birth certificate enough to establish paternity?

No. In Texas, the mere act of signing a birth certificate will not establish paternity. In fact, if the purported father is not married to the mother, he will not be allowed to sign the birth certificate until he signs a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity (AOP).

Is the mother’s husband always presumed to be the child’s father?

Yes. Under Texas law, if a man was married to the mother when the child was born, or at any time during the 300 days before the child was born, he is presumed to be the child’s father.

A man will also be presumed to be a child’s father if he married the mother after the child was born and voluntarily claimed paternity of the child with the Vital Statistics Unit or, during the first two years of the child’s life, he continuously lived with the child and represented to others that the child was his own.

What is a paternity suit?

A paternity suit is a lawsuit filed to determine the legal biological father of a child.

Who can bring a paternity action in Texas?

Generally, the following are allowed to file a paternity action in Texas:

  • The mother of the child in question
  • A man who claims to be the father
  • The child (usually through a representative)
  • A government agency

Why would someone file a paternity suit?

Mothers and government agencies often file paternity suits in order to establish the father-child relationship so they can collect child support. When children or fathers sue to establish paternity, it is usually to formalize the legal relationship.

Is there a time limitation in Texas for filing a paternity suit?

It depends. In general, if the child has a presumed father, the paternity suit must be brought within four years of the child’s birth. The exceptions to this time limitation are:

  • Situations where the presumed father and mother did not live together or engage in sexual relations during the likely time conception would have occurred, or
  • The presumed father was misled into believing he was the father.

In cases where a child doesn’t already have a presumed father, a paternity suit can be brought at any time, even after the child has reached adulthood.

Can a court in Texas order DNA testing to establish paternity?

In a court proceeding to establish paternity, if a party denies or is uncertain of paternity, the court may order DNA testing. The child, mother, and man whose paternity is at issue will have the inside of their cheeks swabbed and then these DNA samples are sent to a lab for analysis. If the results show that the man is the biological father, the court will issue an order adjudicating his parentage.

Do I need a lawyer to establish paternity?

Texas family law matters can be complex. A skilled and knowledgeable Texas family law attorney can explain the Texas laws for establishing paternity and guide you through the process, including representing you and/or your child in court.

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Terry & Roberts serves clients throughout Brazoria County, TX including in Angleton, Pearland, Lake Jackson, Alvin, Freeport, Clute, and Manvel.

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