But you’re not married to your child’s mother.  Does it matter?  Legally, yes.

The definition of “family” is changing, and studies show that unmarried parents are becoming increasingly more common today. You and your child’s mom may sail blissfully into the future, parenting your sweet bundle of joy as a happy family unit.  But if you and the mom decide that you must go your separate ways, what rights do you have regarding your child?

Under Texas law, there is no presumption of paternity if the parents of a child are not married at the time of conception or the time of birth.  What that means is that the father has no parental rights or obligations.  Without a court order, the mother can refuse to allow you to see or care for your child.  And this refusal can affect your extended family as well. Or the mother can move out of state without your permission.

If you want a relationship with your child, you must establish legal paternity.  The establishment of paternity will result in your name being placed on the child’s birth certificate and the assumption of parental rights and duties.

Why establish paternity?

Establishing paternity means more than just being named on your child’s birth certificate. Not only do you, as the father, get to be a part of your child’s life, but also your child and her mother benefit from you playing a role in the development of your child.

Child psychologists can confirm the benefits that children receive by having strong, healthy relationships with both parents.  Being active in your child’s life allows her to learn about family and medical histories.  A relationship with both parents provides your child with access to medical insurance and other benefits like life insurance, Social Security, Veterans benefits and inheritance from both parents.

By being in your child’s life, you and her mother can share the responsibilities of parenthood and share the costs of raising your child.  Having the physical and financial burdens of child-rearing lifted can allow mom to be the best mother she can be for your child.

How do you establish paternity?

If you and your child’s mother agree, you both can voluntarily sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity. This form will be filed with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit in Austin, and your name will be placed on your child’s birth certificate.  This acknowledgment is the equivalent of a court order naming you the parent.

Wondering if you are the biological parent, or does mom not want you to be a part of your child’s life? If that is the case, you can enlist the courts to adjudicate parentage and secure the rights and duties for your child.

During that proceeding, it will be necessary for the Judge to determine paternity, and she will do so by ordering genetic testing. If the genetic tests confirm that you are the biological father of the child, the court can issue orders establishing custody and child support.

Establishing parentage can be complicated and emotional, and the cost of not prevailing can be too great to risk.  It may become necessary for you to hire an experienced family law attorney to file a case to adjudicate parentage and secure your parental rights and access to your child.

The attorneys at The Ramage Law Group are available to help you navigate this process.

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