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When Do Parents Need to Take Steps to Establish Legal Paternity?

Posted on in Family Law

Collin County Child Custody LawyerWhen parents are married, a child’s paternity is usually not in doubt. Since a mother’s spouse is presumed to be a child’s parent, a married father will be able to share in child custody if the couple chooses to get a divorce. However, matters related to custody can become more complicated if a couple is unmarried, and in these situations, fathers may need to establish paternity. This will ensure that both parents will have the obligation to provide child support and meet their children’s financial needs. For unmarried parents, it is important to understand when paternity may need to be established and the procedures for doing so. 

Presumption of Paternity in Texas

There are certain situations where a man will be legally presumed to be the father of a child. This means that regardless of whether the parents remain married, are in an unmarried relationship, or are separated or divorced, the father will have the right to share child custody. Depending on agreements between the parents or decisions made in family court, a father may participate in making decisions about how children will be raised (known as legal custody or conservatorship), and he will have the right to reasonable possession and access of the child (visitation). He will also have the obligation to financially support the child, or if he has primary physical custody, he may receive child support from the child’s mother.

According to the Texas Family Code, a man is presumed to be a child’s father if he meets one of the following requirements:

  • The man was legally married to the child’s mother on the date the child was born.

  • The man had previously been married to the child’s mother, and the birth of the child took place before the 301st day after the marriage ended through divorce, invalidity, annulment, or death. Paternity may be presumed even if a marriage was later determined to be invalid.

  • The man became married to the child’s mother after the child’s birth, voluntarily asserted that he was the child’s father, was named as a parent on the child’s birth certificate, and made a commitment in writing to support the child as his own.

  • The man lived together with the child within the first two years of the child’s life and identified himself as the child’s father to others.

Methods for Establishing Paternity

In cases where a man is not presumed to be a child’s father, additional steps will need to be followed to establish paternity. The simplest method of doing so is to complete and submit a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, which is a legal form in which both parents state that they are in agreement about the identity of the child’s father. If another man is presumed to be a child’s father (such as when a married woman has a child with someone other than her husband), the acknowledgment of paternity will need to be accompanied by a denial of paternity signed by the presumed father.

If either parent refuses to acknowledge paternity voluntarily, the other parent may file a paternity case in court. In these situations, a judge will typically order genetic testing. A certified laboratory will compare the DNA of the father and the child to determine whether the man is the child’s biological parent. Once paternity is confirmed, the court will issue an order of paternity naming the man as the legal father of the child.

Contact Our Collin County Paternity Attorney

If you are a father who needs to ensure that you will be able to share custody of your child or a mother who wants to ensure that your child will receive the proper financial support, The Ramage Law Group can help you understand the steps you can take to establish paternity. To learn more about how we can help you address issues related to child custody, child support, and family law, contact our McKinney paternity lawyer at 972-562-9890.

 

Sources:

https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/FA/htm/FA.160.htm

https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/child-support/paternity

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