Paternity and legal fatherhood are synonymous concepts. Texas law doesn’t afford an unmarried father and a married one the same rights, though. Single dads must first establish their paternity before qualifying for the parental rights that come with such a designation.
Texas law automatically deems a husband and wife as the legal parents of any children born to them during their marriage.
It’s much different when it comes to unmarried couples’ kids. Texas law automatically recognizes the mother as a child’s legal parent. A single father doesn’t gain legal rights to their son or daughter until they complete the paternity process.
There are three ways a father can establish paternity in Texas.
- Mom and dad can voluntarily sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) at the hospital or a vital statistics office.
- Both parents and a Houston family law judge can also sign off on a court order where you all agree to paternity, visitation, custody, and support.
- A third option is most appropriate if you and the child’s mother dispute paternity. You may submit to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing to confirm your fatherhood then petition the court to enter an order establishing your paternity.
Some issues may require further litigation. If your child’s mother was married to another male at the time of your son or daughter’s conception, then the state will likely view the mom’s spouse as the father instead of you. You may need to prove your paternity and take other steps to get the other man’s name removed from the birth certificate.
The mother of a child may also lead you to believe that you are indeed the parent of a child when it may not be the case. You may be on the hook for paying child support and other expenses simply because you signed an AOP. In this instance, you may need to initiate the process to get your name removed from the child’s birth certificate.
There are many positives associated with establishing the paternity of your child. While there are specific steps in place to follow for legalizing your parentage of your son or daughter, the one-size-fits-all approach isn’t right for all fathers. You’ll want to consult with a child custody litigation attorney if your situation doesn’t fit the typical mold, and you need guidance about how to proceed in your Houston case.