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Establishing Paternity in Texas

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Paternity is the legal identification of a child's father. When a child is born out Paternity is the legal identification of a child's father.  When a child is born out of wedlock in Texas, there is no legal father. There is a difference between a legal father and biological father in the eyes of the law, and establishing paternity gives rights to both the child and father involved. Paternity can be established in three different ways under Texas law, and an experienced family law attorney will be able to help you figure out which option is best for your family.

The Importance of Establishing Paternity

There are a variety of reasons why it is important to establish the paternity of a child, regardless of whether the father is the biological or legal in regards to the child. Some of the benefits of establishing paternity include:

  • Obtaining child support from the father;
  • Enforcing rights of visitation and custody for the father;
  • Possibility of providing health insurance or other benefits to the child;
  • Possibility of receiving government benefits (Veteran's benefits, Social Security, etc.) for the child;
  • Knowledge of the child's parental medical history (if the biological father); and
  • Simple knowledge of who the child's father is.

Ways to Establish Paternity in Texas

Texas law allows for paternity to be established in three ways: by presumption, by voluntary acknowledgement, or by court order. Each option has its own steps and forms for formalizing the paternity of the child.  

By Presumption

When the parents are married, the law presumes that the husband is the father of the child. If the husband is the father, then nothing else needs to be done. Paternity is also presumed in a few other circumstances:

  • If the man was married to the mother in the 300 days prior to when the child was born;
  • If the man married the mother after the child was born and voluntarily claimed paternity of the child with the Vital Statistics Unit, on the birth certificate, or in a record where he promises to support the child as his own; or
  • If the man, during the first two years of the child's life, continuously lived with the child and represented to others that the child was his own.

By Acknowledgement

When the parents are not married but everyone agrees on the identity of the child's father, paternity can be established by filling out an “Acknowledgement of Paternity” form with Texas' Vital Statistics Unit. It is a legal form that swears that the man signing it is the biological father of the child, and it must also be signed by the mother.

By Court Order

Paternity of a child can also be established by the court. A parent may ask the court for an order that establishes the paternity of the child. A paternity case can only be brought by the child's mother, her family (if deceased), a man who thinks he is the father, the presumed father, the child, or the intended parent by gestational agreement. Depending on who brings the paternity case, specific time limits apply to when you can file for paternity with the court.

Call a Texas Family Law Attorney Today

Establishing the paternity of your child can be beneficial and life-changing for all parties involved. If you or someone that you know has questions about establishing paternity or other family law questions in Houston, Galveston, or the surrounding area, let The Law Office of Lori E. Laird, PLLC help. Call or contact the office today for a free and confidential consultation of your case.

Lori Elaine Laird

Former police officer. Aggressive, experienced trial attorney.

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