Most people believe that fatherhood is automatic the time of a baby’s birth. If the parents are married, it is automatic. As a child of both parents, he or she will be able to receive child support from one or the other if need be, and can lawfully inherit from their parents.
The child will also be able to receive things like health insurance, VA benefits, and Social Security Disability through the parents. It also guarantees the man his legal rights as a father should he and the mother separate.
But if the parents aren’t married at the time of the child’s birth, the father has no legal rights to the child, including custody and visitation. A court cannot award child support if there is no legally established father. In order to be declared the father, and have paternal rights to his child, a man must file an Acknowledgement of Paternity in Texas order to establish his rights.
The Presumed Father
Texas Family Code chapter 160.102 states that a man is presumed to be the father of a child if:
- He was married to the child’s mother at the time of the child’s birth
- He was married to the child’s mother any time during a period of 300 days before the child’s birth
- He married the mother after the child’s birth, then voluntarily claimed paternity of the child with the vital statistics unit, on the child’s birth certificate, or in a record in which he promised to support the child as his own
- He continuously lived with the child and represented to others that the child was his own during the first two years of the child’s life.
If a man doesn’t meet these criteria, he has no legal rights to the child until paternity is legally established.
The Texas Acknowledgement of Paternity
If both parents agree on the paternity of the child and are ready to declare the man the father, they can sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity at birth. The hospital makes it easy for the couple to take care of the AOP, and will file the form for free with a local Texas Vital Statistics Unit. The father’s name will appear on the child’s birth certificate when it’s issued.
The AOP can also be filed later by working with an AOP-certified entity.
If the father will be unavailable for the child’s birth, such as on a military deployment, the parents can contact the State Attorney General’s office before leaving to prepare and sign the form ahead of time. The mother can take the form to the hospital when she delivers the baby so that the hospital can file it, and the father’s name will be on the birth certificate.
If the father is out of state, incarcerated, or otherwise unavailable, you can contact the AOP Hotline at (866) 255-2006 for assistance.
When The Presumed Father Isn’t
Should there be a question about the child’s biological father, a husband or presumed father and the mother can sign a Denial Of Paternity section of the AOP form.
If after a DNA test it’s discovered that the presumed father is found not to be the biological father, he can sign a “Rescission of the Acknowledgment of Paternity” form (VS-158) to rescind the AOP. This must be done within 60 days of the AOP, or prior to any legal proceeding involving the child. After the 60 day period, he will have to challenge the AOP in court.
Need Help With Paternity Rights?
Wendy L. Hart is an experienced Forth Worth family law attorney with experience in paternity and child custody rights. We can provide full representation for both men and women, and will work to ensure that you are treated fairly, as well as protect the interests of you and your children.