Although it was once considered socially unacceptable to have a child out of wedlock, that is no longer the case in the United States. In fact, about 40 percent of all children are now born to unmarried parents in the U.S. If you are the father of a child born out of wedlock you need to understand your rights and responsibilities. Toward that end, a Fort Worth fathers’ rights attorney Jon Boyd explains your rights if you are not on your child’s birth certificate.
When people think about paternity of a child, they often focus on the birth certificate. Specifically, they often think that whether or not a father’s name is on the birth certificate decides the issue of paternity. Contrary to what many people believe, however, simply putting the father’s name on the child’s birth certificate does not legally establish paternity. Conversely, the absence of your name on your child’s birth certificate does not preclude you from legally establishing paternity of your child.
State law determines how legal paternity of a child must be established. In the State of Texas, like most states, a child born to parents who are legally married is presumed to be the child of the husband. This presumption can be refuted; however, you must take legal action to do so. When a child is born to an unmarried mother, however, there are two routes that can be taken to legally establish paternity:
Signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity.
If both parents agree who the child’s father is, paternity can be established by signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form. Most hospitals will offer the mother this form shortly after the child is born. You can also sign the form later and mail it to the Vital Statistics Unit in Austin. If the AOP form is signed at the hospital, the child’s original birth certificate will include the father’s name. If the AOP is signed at a later date you will likely need to pay a fee to add the father’s name to the birth certificate. This can be accomplished by filing an “Application for a New Birth Certificate based on Parentage.” If you sign the AOP, and later change your mind, you have 60 days to file a file a “Rescission of the Acknowledgment of Paternity” form.
Court ordered paternity.
An AOP is considered a voluntary establishment of paternity. If paternity is disputed, by either the mother or the father, you will need to petition a court to establish paternity of the child. This is referred to as a “Petition to Adjudicate Parentage.” The court can order the alleged father to submit to a DNA test to determine if he is the child’s biological father. If the test proves the parent-child relationship, the court issues an “order adjudicating parentage.”
If you and the child’s mother signed the AOP, and then changed your mind, either of may file a “Rescission of the Acknowledgment of Paternity” form. Be aware, however, that the form must be filed within the first 60 days after the AOP has been filed with the Vital Statistics Unit or before a legal proceeding related to the child is initiated, whichever comes first. If 60 days have already passed, you may still be able to challenge the AOP in court under certain situations.
If either parent wishes to challenge the presumption of paternity, meaning that at least one adult believes that the husband is not the biological father of the child, it can be done through filing a “Rescission of the Acknowledgment of Paternity” form.
Legally establishing paternity is the first step in protecting your rights to your child, including your right to enjoy parenting time with your child. That same step, however, will likely come with a variety of responsibilities. Once you become the child’s legal parent, it also means you are obligated to financially support that child until he/she is an adult. This is one of the many reasons why you should consult with an experienced family law attorney if you need to establish paternity in Texas.
If you recently experienced the joy of becoming a parent and you need to establish paternity, it is in your best interest to consult with a Fort Worth fathers’ rights attorney at Boyd Family Law. Contact us to schedule your appointment today.