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Not Married? What Fathers and Mothers need to Know About Establishing Paternity

When a child is born to a married couple, the law presumes that the mother’s husband is the baby’s father and he does not have to take any action in order for his name to appear on the child’s birth certificate. For unwed fathers, though, things are a little different. If you are the father, but are not married to your child’s mother, you will need to take some action in order to legally establish your paternity.  And Moms, there are good reasons why you also will want to establish paternity.

In Texas, paternity can be established voluntarily or involuntarily. Let’s take a closer look: 

Voluntarily: To establish paternity voluntarily, you and your child’s mother can sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity form. It is easiest to do this at the hospital at the time of birth, but it can also be done after the fact and filed with family court. Of course, if you have any questions about the paternity of your child, you should get those questions answered first before acknowledging paternity.  

Involuntarily: If either parent is uncertain about the child’s biological parentage or denies it, one of them can file a Petition to Adjudicate Parentage. Establishing paternity will help secure your rights of possession and access to your child, determine how decisions will be made, and further define the obligations for supporting your child through monthly child support payments and medical insurance.  If you and your child’s mother are not able to reach agreements on these issues, then the case will go to court and the judge will make a decision about paternity, which may or may not involve a court-ordered paternity test.

Next let’s look at some of the major reasons that establishing your legal paternity is beneficial both for you and for your child.

  1. As your child’s legal father, you have rights and responsibilities.

Once your paternity is established, you gain legal rights that come along with being a father. This can include the right to be involved in medical and educational decisions regarding your child. It also gives you the right to ask family court for custody or visitation if you and your child’s mother ever separate. Also, both the father and mother have legal obligations to support their children.  Establishing paternity can clarify how much child support needs to be paid (and by whom), who is going to enroll your child in health and dental insurance, and how other expenses for your child will be paid (e.g., childcare, special needs).

  1. Your family’s genetic history can be important to your child’s health.

Thanks to quickly developing technology, doctors are gaining more and more insight from our genetic histories. Knowing about health issues that have impacted both sides of the family in the past can help your child’s doctors know what medical conditions may present a risk to your child. This can lead to better medical treatment and early preventative interventions.

  1. Establishing the Parent-Child is one of life’s greatest joys.

One of the most important aspects of being a parent, is being able to form a loving bond with your child.  This bond is important, not only for you, but also for your child’s emotional health and stability.  When you spend time caring for your infant, catching your toddler when he falls, teaching your daughter to peddle on the bicycle without training wheels, and all those priceless other moments you will share, you are not only enriching your own life, but you are helping to raise a secure and confident child who will grow up to be an adult one day.  The love of both a father and mother is one of life’s greatest gifts.  

Motherhood and fatherhood is an incredible journey, and one you don’t want to miss out on!  

If you have questions about legal paternity or you need help establishing it, the Hargrave Family Law team is here to help. We encourage you to contact us today.