When unmarried parents in Texas have children, the children do not have legal fathers unless paternity is established. Before a child’s unmarried father can receive and enjoy his rights as a parent to custody, which is known as conservatorship, he must first establish his paternity of the child. There are a couple of ways that paternity can be established in Texas, depending on whether the parents agree or disagree.
In addition to cases involving fathers who want to establish their rights as fathers through paternity testing, mothers may also have an interest in establishing the paternity of their children. Paternity must be established before a mother can hold an absent father responsible for paying child support for the care of the children. In Austin, paternity cases may be filed by the father, the mother, or the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Challenges to the presumption of paternity may also be brought by fathers who question that they are the fathers of the children. If you are currently embroiled in a paternity dispute or want to establish either your paternity or that of the putative father, contact an Austin paternity law attorney at Kirker Davis LLP by calling (512) 764-7302.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 73.7 million children under the age of 18 in the U.S. in 2016. Of those children, 69 percent lived in two-parent homes. The other most common type of living arrangement was children living with single mothers at 23 percent. The Texas Legislative Council reports that there were 0.99 million single-parent households in Texas in 2014, which was an increase of 99 percent from 1990 when there were 0.5 million in the state.
For unmarried parents and their children, establishing paternity is important. Mothers of the children must establish paternity in order to secure child support to help them raise their children. Fathers must establish paternity before they can seek to have possession and access rights or joint conservatorship of their children. Children who do not have their paternity established may not receive the benefit of building strong relationships with their fathers and may be likelier to live in poverty. Establishing paternity can help to address each of these different types of problems and provide benefits to all who are involved.
Establishing paternity is a legal process through which the legal relationship between an unmarried father and his children is recognized under the law. When paternity is established, the rights and obligations of the parents and the child are determined. Since these cases can be emotionally difficult and stressful, getting help from experienced family law attorneys may be important. The compassionate and knowledgeable attorneys at Kirker Davis LLP have helped many mothers and fathers to resolve their paternity disputes successfully and may be able to guide you through the process.
Paternity may be established in a couple of different ways in Texas. If the unmarried parents agree, they can sign a voluntary acknowledgment of the father’s paternity and file it with the state. After the paternity is established in this way, the custodial parent may seek child support, and the other parent may seek to establish their access rights.
When a man and woman get married, the man is legally presumed to be the father of any children who are born during the marriage. Men will be presumed to be the fathers of any children who are born within 300 days of the men being married to the mothers. This means that if a divorce is finalized and a child is born 275 days later, the man will be presumed to be the father and may be required to pay child support.
The mother, putative father, or the Texas HHSC can file petitions to establish the paternity of a child. Mothers may need to do this if the father does not agree to voluntarily acknowledge their paternity so that they can get child support for their children. A father who want to develop relationships with his children and to enjoy his rights as a parent may also want to bring paternity actions if the mother will not agree to voluntary acknowledgments or deny that they are the father. A mother might also file paternity petitions when they are uncertain of who the father might be. Finally, the Texas HHSC may file paternity petitions to secure DNA testing of putative fathers when the mother has filed applications for state benefits such as TANF in order to secure child support.
When the petitions are filed, the courts may issue orders for DNA testing of the children and the father. The father will need to report to have their DNA tested, and the mother will have to take the children to also be tested. DNA testing is painless and involves the scraping of skin cells from the inside of the cheeks of the putative father and the children. The swabs are then sent to a laboratory for DNA analysis, and the results are returned. If they establish a father-child biological relationship, the courts may then issue paternity orders that establish the father’s paternity. The mother may then seek child support, and the father may seek conservatorship or possession and access.
In 2011, Texas Senate Bill 785 was passed by the state legislature and was signed into law. This bill amended the Texas Family Code to allow fathers who were presumed to be the fathers of children or who signed voluntary acknowledgments of paternity to challenge their paternity if they later learn information that leads them to doubt that they are the fathers and were misled into accepting paternity.
Establishing paternity is important for mothers, children, and fathers. Challenging the presumption of paternity is also important for presumed fathers who learn that they were misled about their fatherhood. If you are currently going through a paternity dispute and want to determine your rights and obligations, getting help from an experienced Austin paternity lawyer at Kirker Davis LLP might help you to reach a successful resolution. Call us today at 512-746-1746 to request a confidential consultation.