Can a Child Custody Attorney Help Me Establish Paternity?
Not all that long ago, it was still frowned upon for a child to be born out of wedlock. Today, however, the pressure to get married when expecting a child has largely disappeared. The result is that a significant percentage of births in the United States are children born to unmarried parents. While this no longer creates the societal scandal it once did, it can still present some legal challenges. Specifically, it creates the need to establish legal paternity over the child. If you are the mother or father of a child born out of wedlock in Texas you may wish to consult with a child custody attorney to help you establish paternity.
Paternity Myths and Misconceptions
When a child is born to unmarried parents, it does create some legal obstacles surrounding issues related to custody, visitation, and child support. Unfortunately, there are all sorts of myths and misconceptions about the paternity and the legal status of a child born out of wedlock. For example, contrary to what many people believe, simply putting the father’s name on the child’s birth certificate does not legally establish paternity. Conversely, if a father refuses to acknowledge paternity, that does not mean he will be able to avoid his financial obligation to the child.
Why Is Establishing Paternity Important?
Establishing legal paternity is very important for several reasons. Both of the parents and the child stand to gain from doing so. From the mother’s standpoint, establishing paternity legally obligates the father to financially support the child until the child reaches the age of majority. From the father’s point of view, establishing paternity legally validates a father’s rights to parenting time with the child and to become the child’s joint, or even sole, conservator. Where the child is concerned, although the stigma of being born out of wedlock is all but gone at this point, knowing that both parents cared enough to formally acknowledge you can still be extremely meaningful.
How Is Paternity Established in Texas?
Now that the importance of establishing paternity should be clear, the next step is figuring out how to do so. In the State of Texas, as is the case in most states, paternity of a child can be established voluntarily or involuntarily. If both parents agree who the child’s father is, paternity can be established by signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity form. In most cases, the form is offered to the parents at the hospital. Signing the form at that time saves the hassle and cost of having the child’s birth certificate changed at a later date. The Acknowledgment of Paternity form can, however, be signed after leaving the hospital. If done after leaving the hospital you will need to mail the form to the appropriate government agency and pay a fee to request the change on the birth certificate.
If the putative (alleged) father does not agree to establish paternity, there is a legal process that can be initiated to involuntarily establish paternity. A Petition to Adjudicate Paternity must be filed by the mother, the putative father, the child, or by the State of Texas is the child is receiving benefits from the State, such as Medicaid or SNAP. The court will set the matter for a hearing. Assuming the putative father was properly served, failing to appear could result in a default judgment declaring him to be the child’s legal father. If everyone does appear for the hearing and both the mother and father agree to parentage, the court can enter an order to that effect. If, however, either the mother or the putative father denies paternity, the court will order a DNA test. A DNA test is non-invasive, only requiring the mother, father, and child to swab the inside of their mouths. Once the results of the test are returned to the court the court will enter an Order Adjudicating Paternity if the test proves paternity or the case will be dismissed if the test shows that the alleged father is not, in fact, the child’s father.
Contact a Child Custody Attorney
If you have additional questions or concerns about establishing paternity of a child born out of wedlock in the State of Texas, contact an experienced Texas child custody attorney at The Law Office of Jon R. Boyd to schedule your appointment today.