Most people assume that a married woman has given birth to a child whose biological father is also her husband. Texas law concurs unless proven otherwise with a DNA test. But when the mother is not married to the child’s father, it becomes more complicated.
Texas law states that a child born to unmarried parents has no legal father until that paternity is established. The mother has complete custody of the child until paternity is established for the legal father. Adding a man’s name to the birth certificate doesn’t necessarily mean that he is the father, and only gives him limited rights to the child.
Acknowledgement Of Paternity (AOP)
In many cases, the parents are certain of the child’s paternity, but they must formally establish legal paternity as well. At the time of birth, the parents can sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP), which allows them to put his name on the birth certificate.
Texas hospitals are required to offer unmarried parents the opportunity to do this along with information about the rights and responsibilities thereof. The services are free to the parents. Once signed, the hospital files the AOP and the birth certificate with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit. The established father will then have the same rights over the child as he would as a married or divorced father.
Parents on this process can call (866) 255-2006 to receive information on the process, both in English and in Spanish.
Should a father not be available at the time of birth—such as on military deployment—the Texas Office of the Attorney General can work with him to sign the form ahead of time. The mother can take the certified form to the hospital when she delivers, and file it with the birth certificate at that time.
Are You The Father?
The term “father” may indicate a biological father, a legal father, or both. For instance, in the case of an adoption, a legal father is likely not the biological father. The presumed legal father of a woman’s child may or may not be her husband. In this case, he would sign a denial of paternity form. For an unmarried woman, the man she names on the birth certificate is the presumed father until proven otherwise.
Complications arise when:
- A man is named as the child’s father but isn’t the biological parent
- The biological father does not want to acknowledge paternity and be named the legal father
- The presumed father later turns out not to be the child’s biological father
If a woman decides to request child support from a man she claims is the father, the court will order a DNA test. These aren’t the same as an over-the-counter DNA test, which also should not be given to a child without the other parent’s consent.
In the event that the alleged father refuses to acknowledge paternity, the mother can initiate a paternity suit, which may include genetic testing to establish or deny paternity. Once established, she can request child support from the legally established father.
Help In Fort Worth With Paternity, Custody, And Other Family Law Issues
Establishing paternity is one of the most important things you can do for your children. Ensuring that both parents are available and have a strong relationship with the child or children gives them a good start in life.
For more than 20 years, Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney helping people throughout Tarrant County with visitation and other rights with their children. We work to help you through any family law issues you have, and that your rights are protected. Visit our Mansfield office, use our online contact form, or call us at (817) 842-2336. We’re ready to help.