There are certain legal rights and obligations that arise from having children that married couples in Texas take for granted, the most common being the existence of father’s rights over his child. However, it is not the same for unmarried couples — fathers have to establish their paternity in Texas. Father’s rights can be established by either signing the Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) or by petitioning the court.
First of all, paternity refers to the relationship between father and child — not only emotionally, but more importantly, legally. It creates legal fatherhood. In Texas, paternity must be established by the father to create this legal tie if the parents are unmarried. The fastest and simplest way is by signing the AOP. Both parents must voluntarily sign this form, either when the child is born at the hospital or after. If not at the hospital, the document can be signed at the local child support office, county clerk’s office or the Vital Statistics Unit. However, a court order is still needed regarding custody, child support, medical support or visitation.
The second option for establishing paternity is by getting a court order. This process involves getting DNA testing completed. When a child support case is opened, the Office of the Attorney General generally helps fathers establish paternity. If the parents agree on paternity and other provisions in the order, resolving support can be relatively simple. However, if it is disputed, then the court has to resolve the disagreement and make a ruling regarding paternity and child support.
Establishing paternity is very beneficial for fathers and children alike. It allows fathers to pursue child custody or visitation, and children know the identity of their fathers. An experienced attorney can assist Texas residents in exercising their fathers’ rights.