Paternity: establishing legal fatherhood in Texas

Paternity is the legal establishment of fatherhood of a child. Texas law provides three ways to do so.

A child's paternity is the establishment of who his or her legal father is. While paternity can be at issue during a marriage, it most often comes up between unmarried parents. Determining paternity creates legal rights and sometimes responsibilities for each of the three involved people: the child, the mother and the father.

For the child, having a legal father makes the son or daughter eligible to inherit property from the dad, possibly a beneficiary of benefits like Social Security or veterans' benefits, perhaps an insurance beneficiary and informed about the family's medical history.

Being declared a legal father gives the man the right to ask the Texas court for visitation and custody rights, vehicles to developing a parent-child relationship.

Once paternity is legally declared, the mother can file for child support, financial support usually paid by the father to the mother to help with expenses and costs of raising the child. Child support may also include contribution to health insurance or expenses, or child care costs.

Three ways to Texas paternity

Under Texas law, paternity can be established three ways: voluntary acknowledgment, presumption or court order.

A father and mother may voluntarily sign together a form called an "Acknowledgment of Paternity" that is filed with the state of Texas to establish paternity.

A man will be presumed under Texas law to be the father of a child in several situations. For example, a man who is the husband of a mother when she gives birth or during any time in the 300 days before the child's birth is legally presumed to be the baby's father.

Texas law allows certain persons and agencies to file a paternity suit in court asking a judge to adjudicate legal fatherhood of a child. Some of the people who can file paternity actions in Texas are the child's mother, certain close relatives of the mother if she has died, a man seeking paternity, a man denying presumed paternity and more.

Legal counsel can make all the difference

It can be very important to get legal advice if you are a Texan facing paternity issues. The law is complex and the parental rights and responsibilities at issue extremely important. An experienced and informed Texas family lawyer can educate you about the law and help you make decisions. In addition, certain deadlines apply in paternity law, so discuss your situation with a paternity attorney as early as possible to preserve all possible options and rights.

Keywords: Texas, paternity, father, child, mother, child support, visitation, custody, acknowledgment, presumption, suit, court