Texas Establishment of Paternity

For obvious reasons, the identity of a child’s mother is quite obvious at the time of the child’s birth. Thus, mothers are automatically granted legal parental rights over their child, including all of the benefits and obligations inherent in those rights. However, establishing paternity and a father’s parental rights is not always such a clear-cut process.

While no one would be able to argue the identity of the mother of a child when the child is born, it is not always perfectly obvious who the father is. Thus, establishing paternity can be a bit complex, and can even become an intensely contentious process.

In Texas, there are three ways to establish the legally recognized paternity of a child:

  • Presumption of paternity
  • Acknowledgement of paternity
  • Court order of paternity

Presumption of Paternity

The simplest way to establish paternity is for the parents to be married at the time of the child’s birth. In Texas, there is a legal presumption that the husband of a mother who gives birth is the father of the child. Thus, paternity and parental rights are automatically granted to the husband. The law also presumes paternity if:

  • A man was married to the child’s mother within 300 days prior to the birth
  • A man married the child’s mother after the birth of the child and voluntarily claimed paternity with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit
  • A man continuously lives with the child for the first two years of his or her life and represents the child to others as his own

If the presumed father is in fact the genetic father of the child, no further action need be taken and he will be automatically considered the legal father of the child. However, if the presumed father is not the genetic father the process gets a little more complicated.

Acknowledgement of Paternity

If the genetic parents of a child are not married when the child is born, or if the genetic father is not the presumed father for any reason, the parents must sign a voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form in order to have the father recognized as the legal parent. It is free to file this form with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit, but if a presumed father exists who is not the genetic father, the presumed father must also voluntarily sign and submit a Denial of Paternity form for the Acknowledge of Paternity to be valid.

Both the Acknowledgement of Paternity and Denial of Paternity form are signed under penalty of criminal perjury (if it is discovered that you purposefully lied on the form), and they may be signed before or after the child is born. Additionally, either an Acknowledgement or Denial of Paternity may be rescinded either within 60 days after the effective date of the form, or prior to initiating a court case involving the child.

Court Order of Paternity

A court order of paternity becomes necessary when there is disagreement over the genetic paternity of the child. For example, if an alleged father refused to sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity or a presumed father refused to sign a Denial, it may be left to the court to adjudicate the paternity of the child. These cases can become intensely complex and contentious, and it is essential that you enlist the services of a skilled attorney to represent your best interests in the paternity case.

A Petition to Adjudicate Parentage may be filed by:

  • The child’s mother (or the child’s parent, grandparent, sibling, or other child if she is deceased)
  • A man who believes he is the child’s father
  • A presumed father who believes he is not the father
  • The child who is the subject of the case
  • The intended parent in an approved gestational agreement
  • A government agency
  • An adoption agency
  • Other approved agencies or representatives

In these cases, the court may rely on genetic testing to determine the actual parentage of the child. Once genetic paternity is discovered, the court will adjudicate the lawful parentage of the child, removing parental rights from anyone who is not the genetic father.

If you are involved in a situation where there are questions or issues regarding the paternity of a child, please do not hesitate to immediately contact Amsberry Law today and let us fight to defend or pursue your lawful parental interests.

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Written by Amsberry Law Firm

Amsberry Law Firm

Mr. Amsberry is board-certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is a proven litigator who has argued before the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and earned favorable outcomes in complex, precedent-setting employment and civil rights cases. He served as a reservist assistant judge advocate general in the U.S. Army and is a sought-after lecturer and speaker on a range of legal issues.

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