Paternity is a legal term used to talk about the identity of a child’s father. When paternity is established, a child’s genetic father becomes the child’s legal father as well. The father then has all the legal rights and responsibilities that come with fatherhood.
There are a few ways that paternity can be established. If both parents are married, Texas courts presume that the husband is the father of the child. Paternity can also be established by filing a document called an “Acknowledgement of Paternity” or by a court order.
Why Paternity Is Important
Having a legal father can be important to a child’s life. It establishes the link between father and child and also helps to ensure that the child will be financially supported throughout his or her life. Things like veterans’ benefits, social security benefits and inheritance do not pass to the child unless paternity has been established. Paternity must also be established before child support can be ordered.
Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP)
The document called the “Acknowledgement of Paternity” can establish paternity when a child’s parents are not married. Dads are often asked to sign AOPs in the hospital when they are there for the birth of their children. To complete and file an AOP at another time, parents must work with an AOP-certified entity. Your lawyer or the Texas Attorney General’s Office can help you find one.
It’s important to know that just signing an AOP does not give you full rights to child custody and does not establish a parenting plan. If you are the biological father of a child born outside of marriage, you might want to talk with a lawyer about how to protect your legal rights to spend time with your child.
Denial of Paternity (DOP)
Sometimes, family situations mean that parents need to complete and file a “Denial of Paternity” document. DOPs are legal forms that state that the presumed father—for example, the husband—is not the biological father of the child. For a DOP to be valid, the child’s mother and biological father must also file an AOP. Both the DOP and AOP must be filed with the Vital Statistics Unit.
Talk With an Attorney About Paternity
Texas paternity laws can be complicated, especially when relationships get complex. The best way to get answers is to talk with a lawyer at the Arlington office of the Schneider Law Firm, P.C., at 817-799-7125. Consultations with our attorneys are confidential.