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.