The importance of paternity in child custody matters

Establishing a father’s paternity in Texas is very important when child custody matters are involved. Texas law states that when the biological parents of a child are not married, the biological father is not automatically considered the legal father. In fact, the parents must formally establish paternity by filing an Acknowledgment of Paternity form with the Bureau of Vital Statistics. This form secures the legal rights of the father and at the same time makes it possible to hold the father responsible for child support in the event of a dispute.

Paternity must be established before a court can order a father to pay child support. It must also be established before a father can demand his right to visitation or to petition a court for child custody. Even if unmarried parents get along and the father is helping to support the child, it is important to establish paternity as early as possible in the child’s life to protect the child in case of the father’s death later on.

Acknowledging paternity can be done as soon as the child is born by filling out and signing the AOP form at the hospital. If the father will not be able to make it to the hospital, the parents can fill out the form ahead of time and the mother can file it once the child is born. In cases where the mother is married but the child is not the husband’s child and the child’s father wants to acknowledge paternity, the husband must fill out and sign the Denial of Paternity part of the AOP.

Parents in Texas will benefit from educating themselves about how to protect their rights and the rights of their children when it comes to custody issues. Establishing paternity is the first step, which can affect the child’s life in many beneficial ways.

Source: Attorney General of Texas Greg Abbott, “Establishing Paternity”, November 26, 2014