Galveston Paternity Attorneys
“Paternity” means fatherhood. In the legal sense, “establishing paternity” refers to the determination of a child’s “legal” father and the related rights and obligations of the father to the child. Every child has a biological father, but not every child has a “legal” father. When “paternity has been established” it means that someone has been named the legal father of a child.
Paternity is automatically established if the parents are married to each other when the child is born. The husband is the legal father and his name will be on the child’s birth certificate. In Texas, if the parents of a child are not married to each other when the child is born, the child has no legal father until paternity is established. Once paternity is established, the father’s name will be placed on the child’s birth certificate and the father will gain certain rights to the child.
In Texas, paternity can be established either “voluntarily” by signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity form or “involuntarily” through a court order.
When the mother and father agree that 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. The form can also be signed later and mailed to the Vital Statistics Unit in Austin. Once the Acknowledgment of Paternity is properly filed with the Vital Statistics Unit, the father is the legal father of the child and his name will be added to the child’s birth certificate.
Involuntary establishment of paternity is done through a court proceeding where the court issues an “order adjudicating parentage.” This method is called “involuntary” because someone disputes paternity, which is why it becomes a court issue.
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 the father appears in court and the mother and father agree that the father is the biological father, the court will immediately enter an order adjudicating parentage. If either the mother or the father denies or is uncertain of paternity, the court may order DNA testing. If, after DNA testing, the court determines that the father is in fact the biological father, the court will issue an order adjudicating parentage, making the father the legal father and 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.
Establishing paternity means more than just having a father named on the child’s birth certificate. There are benefits for the child, the mother, and the father when paternity is established.
Establishing paternity helps children:
- have a relationship with both parents;
- learn about family history, including medical histories; and
- access medical insurance and other benefits like life insurance, Social Security, Veterans benefits, and inheritance.
Establishing paternity helps mothers to:
- share the responsibilities of parenthood and
- share the costs of raising their child (once paternity is established, the mother can seek court ordered child support).
Establishing paternity helps fathers to:
- gain legal rights to their child (like being able to ask a court for custody of or visitation with their child);
- show they care about their child;
- establish a bond with their child; and
- participate in their child’s life.