Establishing Parentage Attorney in Waco, Texas
Establishing paternity is the first step to gaining custody, visitation, or support rights for your child. A paternity order determines who is, and who is not, a child’s legal father.
If the child is born to married parents, the law recognizes two legal parents. Married spouses do not need to take additional legal steps to establish paternity.
If the child is born to unmarried parents, the law does not recognize the biological father as a legal parent until paternity is established. When the biological father is recognized as a legal parent, he takes on the benefits, rights, and duties of a parent.
In Texas, paternity can be established several different ways:
A legal presumption (if the parents are married)
Filing suit (a court order)
Filing an acknowledgment of paternity
A. Legal Presumption
A presumption is a legal assumption the court makes if specific facts are established and not contradicted. A man is presumed to be the child’s biological father if:
He was married to the child’s mother when the child was born or conceived.
He was married to the child’s mother any time during the 300 days before the child was born.
He married the child’s mother after the child’s birth and voluntarily claimed paternity with the Vital Statistics Unit, on the child’s birth certificate, or in a record, in which he promises to support the child.
He continuously lived with and represented the child as his own during the first two years of the child’s life.
The presumptions of paternity are “rebuttable.” A presumption can be overcome by introducing evidence, such as DNA testing, that the presumed father is not the child’s biological father in a suit to determine paternity.
B. Filing Suit
Unmarried parents who disagree about paternity can get a court order through the Attorney General’s Office or by filing a lawsuit.
The mother of the child or a man who believes he is the child’s father may file suit to establish paternity. Also, a presumed father may file suit to contest his identity as the child’s legal father.
The court may order DNA testing to determine the biological father. A DNA paternity test involves no more than a cheek swab. Suppose you are determined to be the biological father. In that case, you can ask the court to decide custody, support, and visitation so that you can begin to exercise your legal rights and duties as a parent.
C. Signing a Written Acknowledgment
An Acknowledgement of Paternity, or an “AOP,” is a simple, inexpensive way to establish paternity. It is a legal form that allows unmarried parents to acknowledge paternity without going to court. Another form that a father can sign is an “intent to claim paternity” with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit. This intent to claim paternity is a must for any father who believes that he has a biological child but the mother refuses to acknowledge him as the father. If the father fills out and files the intent to claim paternity, the form preserves the father’s claim to paternity, and prevents the mother from giving the child up for adoption. Go to https://www.dshs.texas.gov/vs/paternity/registry.aspx for the intent to claim paternity form. For the acknowledgement of paternity, go to https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/child-support/paternity/acknowledgement-paternity-aop
An AOP only establishes paternity. If you want the court to order custody, visitation, child support, or medical support, you should file a paternity case. The intent to claim paternity only preserves your right to make a claim to paternity, it does not establish you as the father. Once you file the intent to claim paternity, you then need to file a private lawsuit to establish paternity or go through the Office of the Attorney General to have a lawsuit filed to establish paternity.
There is also a form called a “denial of paternity” or DOP. This form, as inferred from the name, rules out a person as the father. A denial of paternity is a legal form signed by a presumed father. It states that the presumed father is not the child’s genetic father. The child’s genetic father and mother must also sign an AOP and file both the AOP and the DOP with the Vital Statistics Unit.
D. Where Can the Acknowledgment Be Signed?
The AOP and DOP can be completed at the hospital when the child is born or before or after the child is born at a certified entity, like a local birth registrar or child support office. The certified entity or the hospital will then file the AOP or DOP with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit.
Both an AOP and a DOP are free to file.
What if mom is married to a person who is not the biological father?
If the child’s mother is married to a person who is not a biological father, then the spouse is the child’s presumed father. You cannot use an AOP to establish paternity until the mother’s spouse signs a “Denial of Paternity” or a DOP.
A denial of paternity is a legal form signed by a presumed father. It states that the presumed father is not the child’s genetic father. The child’s genetic father and mother must also sign an AOP and file both the AOP and the DOP with the Vital Statistics Unit.
Can I rescind my Acknowledgement of Paternity?
Yes. If you have signed an AOP or DOP, you may file a “Rescission of the Acknowledgement of Paternity” form with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit to rescind the AOP. Act quickly, because you must file the form by either:
60 days after the AOP or DOP has been filed with the Vital Statistics Unit, and
Before a court case related to the child is filed.
If you miss the deadline to rescind, you may still challenge an AOP or DOP by filing suit in the county where the child lives.