Paternity is the legal determination of who a child’s father is. Just because someone is the biological father of a child, it does not always mean that they are the legal father, and until paternity is established, they do not have rights or duties to the child.
When your child is born, if you are married to the mother, then you will be the presumed father and will automatically be granted paternity rights and do not need to do anything to establish the fact.
On the other hand, if you were not married to the child’s mother when the child was born, you will need to go through the process of establishing paternity. This can be done voluntarily when both parents sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form. However, if parents disagree over who the alleged father is, then you may need to fight for your rights with the help of an attorney.
You may also be able to establish your rights as a father if you are not the child’s biological father by formally adopting your child. Adoption cases are complex, emotional, and time-consuming, and a family law attorney can help guide you through the process.
At The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC, our team of family lawyers is committed to fathers’ rights. We will work tirelessly for a just outcome in your case and will always be prepared to advocate on your behalf in court if necessary.
What Does Establishing Paternity in Texas Mean?
Establishing paternity makes you the child’s legal father, which gives you parental rights and duties such as the duty to financially support your child’s upbringing and the right to spend time with your child as their main caregiver.
Although every child is born with a biological father, not all children have a legal father. If the mother is married to the father when the child is born, then the father’s name will automatically be added to the birth certificate, making them the legal father. However, when a child is born outside of marriage, the child will not have a legal father until paternity is established.
For any father, biological or not, establishing paternity can be a highly emotional issue, especially regarding custody and child support arrangements. A family law attorney can help fight for your rights to your child.
What Are The Benefits of Establishing Paternity in Texas?
Paternity establishes you as the legal father, and this benefits all parties, including yourself, the child’s mother, and the child.
Firstly, you will have your name on the child’s birth certificate and will be granted parental rights such as those involving custody and visitation. If the mother is hostile to you being involved in the child’s life, then this is especially important. You will have a legal right to spend time with your child as their main caregiver, and once a child custody agreement has been established, the child’s mother will have no choice but to facilitate it.
The mother also benefits from paternity being established as she is no longer the only person responsible for the child’s wellbeing. Custody will be shared, and so too will the financial burdens of raising a child. If the mother continues to be the child’s primary caregiver, then you may be ordered to pay child support to help financially support the child’s upbringing.
Finally, your child will benefit from having a legal father both emotionally and financially. Not only will they benefit from having a relationship with their father throughout their life, they will also benefit from health insurance benefits and the right to inheritance.
How Can Unmarried Parents Establish Paternity in Texas?
Unmarried parents will need to establish paternity in Texas, and this can be done either voluntarily or involuntarily.
Voluntarily Establishing Paternity
Voluntarily establishing paternity is the fastest and cheapest option. It involves both parents signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity, declaring yourself to be the father. This can be done at the hospital after the child is born or at any time afterward.
This can only be done if both parents agree to who the father is and are willing to cooperate. If the child’s mother refuses to acknowledge you as the father, then you will need to explore other options.
Even if paternity is established voluntarily, you may still need to go to court if you need orders in place for custody, visitation, and support. Therefore, you may still benefit from the support and guidance of a family law attorney.
Involuntarily Establishing Paternity
If it is not possible to voluntarily establish paternity, then you will need a court order to declare you as the legal father. To do this, an attorney can help you file a Suit to Determine the Paternity. This may involve DNA testing, however, this is usually only necessary if someone is contesting who the father is or if there is more than one person who could potentially be the father.
Once paternity has been established, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, you will gain parental rights to your child.
What Do I Do if I am Not the Child’s Father?
If you do not believe you are the father of the child and paternity has not yet been established, then you may still need to undergo DNA testing to prove that you are not the biological father.
If you are the legal father but do not believe that you are the biological father, then an attorney can help you file a petition asking the court to terminate the parent-child relationship.
The court will hold a pretrial hearing to determine whether you meet the requirements for the case to move forward; if you do, then they may order DNA testing. If the DNA results come back negative, then your parental rights and responsibilities may be terminated. However, if you are in a child support order and have missed payments, then you will still need to pay any unpaid child support up until the termination date.
On the other hand, if you are not the biological father but have cared for and supported the child since their birth and believe you should be the legal father, then you may be able to legally adopt the child and therefore be granted paternity rights. However, adoption cases are highly complex, and you should speak to a family law attorney who can advise you on your next steps.
How Does the Court Determine Who The Legal Father is?
If paternity is in question, then DNA testing may be ordered. This usually only involves a cheek swab and is completed quickly. If it comes back positive, you will gain parental rights and responsibilities.
It is important to note that if you receive a piece of paper informing you of a court date relating to establishing paternity, you are legally required to attend that hearing; it is not optional. If you do not attend, you will lose the opportunity to present evidence and argue your case, and the Judge will not look favorably on you. This could negatively impact the outcome of decisions such as how much you will need to pay for your child and how much time you spend with them.
Advice For a Paternity Case Hearing
You should do whatever it takes to attend your paternity court hearing when it is ordered. You may need to request time away from work or other responsibilities so that you can attend. If you do not attend, then important issues could be determined in your absence, including declaring you as the legal father, ordering child support, and more.
Your case could occur at any point during the day and so you should expect to take a whole day away from any other responsibilities. You should dress smartly and act appropriately. You should be patient and not listen to music or videos on your phone.
The best thing you can do is hire a family law attorney to represent you. When you do, the Judge will speak to your attorney directly. They will know how to protect your right and interest and what evidence to present to support your case.
The Types Of Custody Under Texas Law
One of the main benefits of establishing paternity is the right to spend time with your child. In Texas, custody is known as conservatorship, and it can take many different forms.
If one parent is granted sole managing conservatorship of the child, then they are the only parent who can make important decisions in the child’s life, such as where they go to school or receive medical care. However, the law tries to keep both parents in the child’s life so the other may still be granted visitation rights, even if they need to be supervised.
A joint managing conservatorship is where both parents are entitled to make important decisions in the child’s life and spend time with them. This can take many different forms, and although a 50/50 split of parenting time might sound fair, that is rarely practical. The court will also try and foster stability in a child’s life, so one parent may be the residential parent who the child lives with, and the other will be granted visitation rights such as every other weekend and one weekday evening.
At The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC, our family law attorneys are trained mediators. We will help you come to a decision amicably where possible, which will save time and money on court proceedings and will help you arrive at an arrangement that works for you and your family. Where this is not possible, we will be prepared to advocate fiercely on your behalf in front of a Judge.
How is Child Support Determined in Texas?
In Texas, both parents have a duty to financially support their children. Usually, the non-residential parent is ordered to pay support to the other to make up for the fact that they spend less time with the child. Child support aims to make the costs of bringing up a child equal for both parents and can be used to pay for anything related to their care, including clothes, toys, and shelter.
The amount of child support that must be paid in Texas is calculated based on child support guidelines. However, in cases involving high-value assets or children with increased needs, the court may deviate from these guidelines.
Texas child support guidelines are based on a percentage of Net Monthly Income; they are:
- One Child – 20%
- Two Children – 25%
- Three Children – 30%
- Four Children – 35%
- Five Children – 40%
- Six Children – No less than 40%
If the parent paying child support earns over $7500 NMI then these calculations will be applied to the first $7500, unless the child has additional needs.
Parents are also required to ensure that their children have access to medical care. The court will consider whether either parent has the ability to provide medical insurance coverage at a reasonable cost.
How Must Paternity be Proven in Texas? FAQs
If you have questioned paternity, then you may have missed child support payments. However, if you are under a child support order then you must make payments. Even if you establish that you are not the father, you will still owe all backdated payments.
Either parent can hire a family law attorney, go to the Office of the Attorney General, hire, or file a paternity suit independently to get the process started. However, considering the complexity of these cases and how important the outcome is to your future, we recommend speaking to an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process.
A lab will run a series of tests that look for genetic matches between the father and child; these are called DNA sequencing. A match confirms paternity.
Either parent can file a petition asking the court to establish an alleged father as the biological one. Either way, the court can order the father to take a paternity test.
The mother, the alleged father, or a governmental agency can file a paternity suit to establish who the father is.
In Texas, a child support order usually ends when a child turns 18 or when they graduate school, whichever comes later. However, if the child has ongoing needs, then payments may need to be made until the court orders their termination.
Contact The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC Today
Fathers have the same parental rights as mothers. However, the legal system is complex, and to protect your rights and interests, the best thing you can do is seek representation from an experienced family law attorney.
At The Love DuCote Law Firm LLC, we have a long history of happy clients to draw upon and using our skills, experience, and resources, we will do everything possible to secure a favorable outcome in your case.