Establishing paternity upon the birth of a child in Texas
When two married people have a child it is presumed that the father of the child is the mother’s husband. For that presumption to be rebutted, evidence to the contrary must be produced for a Court to rule otherwise. When unmarried people have a child together one party must establish who the father of the child is. The is obviously an extremely important event as the father-child relationship is now set for the remainder of both of their lives.
For starters, this is an important step as the child is now able to be supported by the father, whether it be through child support or legal inheritance. From the father’s perspective, if he and the mother were to separate, or were never “together” in the first place, the father’s rights to the child would be guaranteed.
Many would be fathers will acknowledge paternity voluntarily through an Acknowledgement of Paternity at the hospital. A mother and father can fill out and sign an acknowledgment of paternity prior to the birth of child but they will then need to provide that document to the appropriate government office. A form will be presented to the father who can sign it and remove any doubt as to who the father of the child actually is. Typically the parents will arrive at the hospital together and will plan to have the father’s name added to the child’s birth certificate immediately. When parents are not married the AOP must be signed before the father’s name can be added to the certificate. The rights and duties of being a father are made known to the man prior to his actually signing the AOP. An Acknowledgment is sent to the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Austin and once accepted the child’s birth certificate will then have the father’s name added to it.
This is all well and good, but what if the mother or the man she is in a relationship with don’t know who the father is. If the mother or her partner do not want to sign a voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity they are able to go through the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General in order to confirm paternity. The Attorney General’s services are free of charge in order to administer a paternity test.
What are some benefits for the child when their paternity is legally determined early in their life? For starters, the child is eligible for health insurance through their father thus covering them in the event of a sudden illness or chronic condition which requires ongoing medical attention. The rights and duties that are inherent in fatherhood are also established through the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, as stated earlier in this blog post. Children who grow up with a father in their lives have a huge leg up over those who do not. This goes beyond the opinion of the author of this blog post- studies have shown this to be the case time after time.
Legal paternity of a child is also important because a father whose rights and duties to a child have been established may seek enforcement of those rights and duties by a Court if the mother of the child violates a Court Order that had been previously established. Unfortunately parties to a Court order do not always abide by its terms. A father whose rights to the child have been previously established may both be a party to a legal case involving the child and may then seek to enforce that order subsequently. Another benefit to having paternity established is so that the child and their mother may know of any medical issues that a father has or that the father’s family may have. This can assist in helping chart a prudent course for the child from a medical treatment perspective.
A man who is been legally determined to be the father of a child is known as an “adjudicated” father. A legal determination is often made through Court proceedings when a mother or “alleged” father files a lawsuit to determine the paternity of a child. The filing party has the burden of establishing the paternity of a particular man. DNA testing is usually undertaken and from there the usual rights and duties can be established for whomever is determined to be the father of the child.
A man who voluntarily signs an Acknowledgment of Paternity may file a petition with a Court to rescind that acknowledgment but must do so within 60 days the Acknowledgment having been received by the Bureau of Vital Statistics. If a man is the legal father to a child and he believes that this should not be the case, he must file a lawsuit to counter this legal relationship having been established. Time is of the essence as he must file suit within one year of the date he had reason to believe the child may not be his. A court will have a hearing to determine the strength of the man’s case to counter the legal establishment of paternity. If the court believes there to be a good reason as to why the man does not believe he is the father of the child then the judge may order DNA testing. If the results come back and show the man is not the father of the child then his rights and duties as a father will be terminated. The mother of the child is able to seek to establish the actual father of the child by her own means at that point.
While it is not ideal for the paternity of a child to be in question it is a reality for some families in the State of Texas. In dealing with a delicate situation such as this, legal representation is highly recommended. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan combine a strong knowledge of the law with strong advocacy skills in the courtroom. Please contact our office today for a free of charge consultation with one of our attorneys.
This was originally posted at http://www.bryanfagan.com/Family-Law-Blog/2017/June/Establishing-paternity-upon-the-birth-of-a-child.aspx by Evan Hochschild
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