Houston paternity attorneys are here to help
Texas parents have legal rights and obligations regarding minor children, regardless of whether they were married at the time of the child’s birth.
Unfortunately, some mothers and fathers do not understand how paternity laws work, so they do not take action with respect to such matters as custody, visitation, and support. The parent-child relationship can suffer when the matter of paternity has not been established through the proper legal channels, and a parent may give up considerable legal rights.
According to Texas law, children born to unwed parents do not have a legal father (a biological father is not the same as a legal father). To establish legal paternity, both parents must agree to sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP).
At The Stout Law Firm, P.L.L.C., our paternity lawyers understand that paternity can be a sensitive topic, so we approach each client matter with compassion.
With more than 20 years of combined experience in family law, our team is prepared to serve your needs no matter what side of the paternity issue you may be on. Please contact our office to set up a consultation with a Houston paternity lawyer, and review some important details about how these cases work in Texas.
Overview of Paternity in Texas
The Texas statute that governs the parent-child relationship provides that a child born to a married couple is presumed to be the offspring of the husband.
The issue of paternity, otherwise termed parentage, becomes relevant when a child is born to unmarried parents. Going through the legal process to establish paternity is important for both mothers and fathers if their relationship has already ended or does not continue as the child grows.
Each parent has rights to enforce and legal responsibilities to uphold, especially as they pertain to raising and supporting the child in a healthy environment.
Reasons to Hire a Paternity Lawyer
Motivations for bringing a paternity suit to vary, but typically it is a result of one or more of the following reasons:
- To establish legal conservatorship/custody.
- To request a modification of custody.
- To establish visitation rights.
- To collect financial support.
- To collect benefits (e.g. health insurance).
Whatever the motivation may be, ensuring your paternity lawyer is knowledgeable regarding relevant law surrounding paternity actions is an important part of the process.
How to Establish Paternity in Texas
The starting point in a paternity case is which type of process applies to your specific situation and your relationship with the child’s other parent. In general, there are three legal options for establishing parentage in Texas:
- Marriage: As mentioned, there is a legal presumption that a child born to a marriage is the offspring of the spouses. The same is true if a single mother becomes pregnant, but weds before the baby is born.
- Acknowledgment of Paternity: If the parents agree upon the identity of the father, they can execute a legal document regarding the parentage of the child. The mother and father must each work with a state-approved entity regarding the Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form, which becomes official when both parents sign. This usually occurs at the time the child is born. The parents must also file the AOP with the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics. Generally, if the AOP is executed at the hospital, the hospital personnel will handle this for the parents.
- Paternity Lawsuit in Court: If parents do not agree on the identity of the child’s father, it is necessary to file a paternity suit in court. Part of the court proceedings may include getting a DNA test to determine parentage, which tends to be accurate 99% of the time.
The AOP is the easiest way to establish parentage when parties are not married, but agreement of both parents is critical.
If necessary, a paternity attorney can assist with filling out the forms and filing with the paperwork with the appropriate government body, so you can be sure there are no errors along the way and the father is legally adjudicated as the child’s parent.
If you find yourself in a situation where filing a lawsuit to establish paternity is inevitable, then you first must determine if you have the standing to bring the proceeding.
Several parties have standing to file a petition for a paternity lawsuit, including:
- The mother;
- The putative (alleged) father;
- The child or child’s representative; and
- A government agency that seeking support on behalf of the child.
Because any legal proceeding involves complicated laws and procedural rules, it is essential to have a paternity lawyer to help with your case. Your attorney will file the necessary documents, present evidence on your behalf, and represent your interests in court. Contact the attorneys at The Stout Law Firm, P.L.L.C. to help guide you through this process.
Parental Rights in Paternity Cases
Once an AOP is filed or a court order is entered establishing parentage in a paternity case, both parents automatically have certain legal rights responsibilities in relation to their child, including support of a child and rights to possession of and access to that child.
Regardless of whether you establish paternity through an AOP or court process, you may need legal assistance in seeking child support.
It is also possible that you could have questions or concerns about the child’s father exercising his parental rights. A paternity attorney can help establish orders that specify where the child will primarily live and with whom, what periods of possession and access each parent may have to the child, and who will pay child support and in what amount.
- Rights of Unmarried Mothers: Raising a child is expensive, and there are many costs that add up when it comes to raising him or her. Without a legal designation on paternity, a single mother cannot seek financial support for child support which would help cover the costs of food, clothing, education, medical care, extracurricular activities, and other expenses related to the child’s upbringing.
- Single Fathers Also Have Rights: It is increasingly common for unmarried fathers to want a relationship with their child and participate in important decision-making regarding the child’s care and upbringing. Without legally establishing parentage, the mother is not obligated to allow such involvement making it important to establish and assert your legal rights upfront.
Once you gain legal recognition as the child’s father, you have certain rights regarding custody and visitation. Generally speaking, you are entitled to spend time with the child and partake in decisions regarding his or her care absent extenuating circumstances.
Of course, you also have the legal responsibility to pay child support if the child is not living with you primarily, which is why having a paternity lawyer is crucial. Simply waiting to establish paternity over your child does not relieve you of financial responsibility for the youth which means finding an experienced paternity lawyer to assist you through the process early on is important.
Discuss Your Parental Rights and Responsibilities with a Houston Paternity Lawyer
Paternity cases are highly complex under Texas law, regardless of whether you are completing an AOP or must go to court to establish parentage. At The Stout Law Firm, P.L.L.C. our goal is to make paternity matters as smooth as possible and to provide legal support for steps that follow once paternity is established. No matter what your role may be in the child’s life, we are here to help.
Please contact us at 713.980.4300 to schedule a consultation with a paternity attorney or with any questions about your situation.