Establishing legal paternity is a crucial procedure for many families nowadays. When parents who are not married bear a child, there are additional legal steps to be taken to ascertain parental rights.
This includes the right for the father to be listed on the birth certificate and if separated from their spouse, have child support, custody, and visitation established via a court order.
If you wish to establish paternity in order to protect your parental rights and role in your child’s future, The Woodlands paternity lawyers at Bolton Law are here to help you. Call our family law attorneys today at 281-351-7897 to get started!
What Is Establishing Paternity?
In legal terms, establishing paternity is the process of determining a child’s legitimate father and the related rights and responsibilities of the father to the child. All children have a biological father, but not all have a legal father. This is where establishing paternity comes into the picture.
What Does Establishing Paternity Do?
Establishing paternity plays a major role in protecting the rights of both parents. For fathers:
- It gives them the right to change the child’s last name.
- It gives them a legal right to have a relationship with the child and makes future parenting agreements like custody and support less complex.
- It gives them the right to travel with the child.
- It gives them legal rights when there’s a concern about the other parent taking the child without consent.
When it comes to mothers establishing paternity allows them:
- To share responsibilities of being a parent
- To help make a child support order against the father when necessary
- To claim important benefits to the child, like medical insurance coverage, life insurance, social security, VA benefits, etc.
How Is Paternity Established?
In Texas, paternity is established either voluntarily or involuntarily through the court system:
More often than not, paternity is established voluntarily either at birth or shortly afterward. In the state of Texas, paternity is automatically assigned to the husband if the couple is married, whether the husband is the biological father or not. For unmarried couples, the father does not have legal rights to the child until paternity is established.
If the mother is unmarried, paternity is established at the clinic or hospital where the child is born through an Acknowledgment of Paternity form completed by the biological father. This form can also be completed later by sending a signed, notarized copy to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.
If the mother is married at the time of the birth, her current husband is automatically presumed to be the legal father. The biological father cannot establish paternity using an Acknowledgement of Paternity form unless the presumed father waives his parental rights by signing a Presumed Parent’s Denial of Responsibility.
In some cases, paternity cannot be established voluntarily for various reasons. These reasons may include competing claims to paternity or questions about identifying the father. In such circumstances, establishing paternity through the court system is needed. Here, a court order to get a genetic test is usually the procedure.
The mother also has the right to approach the Department of Child Services, where the case is then referred to the county prosecutor. No sides are taken during the case and the proceedings are done on behalf of the child. This process does not require a lawyer, but you have the option to hire one.
The mother, alleged parent, or presumed parent can also file a Petition for Establishment of Paternity via the court system. This causes a summons to be served, whereby the opposing individual is given the chance to respond and the issue taken to court. This again does not call for legal representation, but at this stage, it is advisable to hire a seasoned family law attorney.
What Are the Benefits of Establishing Paternity?
Establishing paternity can be highly beneficial to both parents and the child. It is required before a court can order child support, child custody, visitation, etc. Here are some of the benefits of establishing paternity you should consider:
A healthy relationship with their father is critical to a child’s well-being. The first step to creating a healthy father-child relationship is undoubtedly establishing paternity. According to research, fathers who are active in the life of their child help boost the social and emotional health of their young one.
It’s imperative for a child to know that they’re part of a family. At the same time, it’s paramount for the father to know that they are the legal dad of the child. Establishing paternity can help create and nurture healthy relationships between the father and the kid.
Identity is not simply having the father listed on the child’s birth certificate. It also contributes to the development of the child’s identity as they come to know and form a relationship with the father.
Both the father and the mother are expected to provide financial support for their children. For the court to order a father to pay child support, paternity must first be established.
Child support is not the only financial aspect impacted by the establishment of paternity. Other financial matters like life insurance, Social Security benefits, retirement, pension, and inheritance rights come into play in the event something happens to the father.
Custody & Visitation
If the parents do not live together or are fighting for custody and visitation rights, then establishing paternity may be required before the judge can approve custody or visitation for the father. Establishing paternity is essential for fathers to secure parenting time with the child.
Access to Information
In the state of Texas, both legal parents have the right to be notified regarding legal proceedings involving their child. These include adoption proceedings, custody hearings, juvenile court proceedings, or criminal proceedings. In addition, legal parents have the right to access information about medical, school, and religious records.
Establish paternity for the sake of the child’s medical history. The child or their doctor may need to know their medical history from both parents for certain genetic traits or conditions that may affect them. When paternity is confirmed, the father is also able to add the child to his health and dental insurance policies.
What if I Find Out I Am Not the Father?
Usually, it is advisable not to sign the dotted line, whether you know you are not the biological father or are uncertain. That’s because the moment you sign a paternity statement, you will be responsible for child support as well for reimbursing the state for the welfare payments to the mother until you are able to prove you are not the biological father.
As earlier mentioned, you also have the option of filing a Petition for Establishment of Paternity via the court system where you can try to prove that you are not the father. Note that even if you have been paying child support and later discover you are not the father, you won’t be able to seek compensation for the payments.
The Woodlands Paternity Lawyers at Bolton Law Are Here to Help
Child support and paternity are some of the most bitterly fought cases in Texas. These issues not only have an effect on the parties’ lives but also on the upbringing of the children. That’s why it is important to seek legal advice and representation. The Woodlands paternity lawyers at Bolton Law will protect your rights whether you’re the legal father or not. Call us today at 281-351-7897 to learn more about your options.