Paternity Rights

When discussing the terms “Paternity” and “Fathers’ Rights,” it is essential to understand that establishing such rights affects not only the father but the mother and child as well. As family law attorneys, our firm has been involved with hundreds of such cases over decades. We have represented both fathers and mothers, who have had many legitimate worries involving numerous and varied fact patterns.

Cases involving these matters have ranged from mothers who have suffered abuse and abandonment, who seek safety and need child support, to fathers who have had their rights, even their fatherhood or visitation rights, denied due to parental alienation or the entrance of a new man into the mother’s life. It is also important to note that the above-referenced fact patterns are not gender-specific, as both men and women can transgressions, and many good people have needed our help.

Establishing Rights

When discussing paternity, we must address two additional terms, “putative” father and “alleged” father, which are sometimes confused with paternity. When “paternity” is established, it means that a man has been legally established in the State of Texas to be the father of a child. A putative father is merely the alleged father of a child, and somewhat conversely, an alleged father is someone who is thought to be or who claims to be the father of a child. In both of these cases, actual paternity has not been legally established.

A father’s rights are not, therefore, legally granted until paternity is established. When a child is born to a married couple, paternity is automatically established. The husband does have the right under the law to challenge this paternity, which is an example in some divorce situations where adultery is alleged.

Paternity can also be established, however, in other ways. A man and a woman can voluntarily agree that the man is indeed the father of a child born to the mother by simply signing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. Also, a court proceeding can establish paternity if it is contested. In this event, either one of the parties, or the State of Texas, through the Office of the Attorney General, can file a Petition to Adjudicate Parentage.

Birth Certificate

If an unmarried woman gives birth, a legal father will not exist until or unless paternity is legally established. In this event, again, either the mother or the State of Texas can file suit against a putative father to establish paternity. In addition, a man who claims to be the father can file a Petition to Adjudicate Parentage.

Court proceedings generally involve the requirement of a paternity test to establish paternity. Such tests require a probability in excess of 99% and they generally average approximately 99.5%. If fatherhood is established in court, the biological father’s name can be added to the child’s birth certificate. Additionally, if an alleged father fails to appear at a legal proceeding, the court has a right to declare his paternity through what is termed a default.

Although it appears to be a common belief that numerous fathers seek to avoid paternity, this is not always the case. In fact, a paternity registry has been established in Texas for men seeking to establish their rights as a father. To sign up in this registry, a man who believes that he is the father of a child must file a Notice of Intent to Claim Paternity before a child is born, or within thirty-one days of the child’s birth. The form necessary to establish legal notice can be found on the Texas Vital Statistics website. This registration process allows registrants to be notified if their child is subsequently placed for adoption or if paternity is contested in court.

Establishing paternity for a child can be complicated. Please call our experienced family law attorneys if you have any questions about this process.