When a woman becomes a mother, there is no question about her relationship to the child. For fathers, things are somewhat less certain. A man married to a woman who gives birth is the presumptive father of that child.
However, many people have children without first getting married. The fathers in these situations have to take extra steps to legally have the same rights that a married father or a mother has after the birth of a child. They will need to establish paternity to seek visitation or shared custody.
Formally establishing paternity in Texas can occur in multiple ways, depending on the relationship between the father and the mother.
Acknowledgment of Paternity
Anytime after the birth of your child, you have the option of acknowledging your paternity. So long as the mother eventually agrees that acknowledging you would be best for the child, you can execute an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP).
An AOP that you properly execute and submit can establish you as the father. In some cases, you and the mother do not need to see one another to execute the form. You can sign an AOP separately in certain situations. Minors have the right to execute these documents without the consent of their parents if they become fathers.
Just signing an AOP won’t add your name to the birth certificate. It only formally establishes you as the father of your child. You will have to fill out another form applying for an updated birth certificate after already establishing paternity.
After a genetic test ordered by the courts
If the mother does not wish to acknowledge you or if there is some question as to the identity of the father, then you may need to turn to the Texas courts.
Even if the mother has been resistant to your attempts to establish paternity, the Texas family courts can compel her to allow genetic testing. If the test affirms your likely paternal relationship, you will then be in a position to assert your parental rights and potentially seek shared custody or visitation.
Establishing paternity and seeking time with your child will benefit both of you.