Generally, in most states, when a child is born to unmarried parents, the mother retains sole physical and sole legal custody of the child unless and until paternity is established. However, child support and medical support cannot be put in place without a paternity order either. If a father wants to have a relationship with his child and a voice in the child’s upbringing, it’s vital for him to establish paternity and ask for custody.
What is paternity and why is it important?
Paternity is the legal identification of a child’s father. When paternity is established, the child’s genetic father becomes the child’s legal father with all of the rights and duties of a parent. Establishing paternity secures a father’s rights as a parent and establishes child support and medical support for the children.
How is paternity of a child established?
There are 3 ways to establish paternity of a child:
By voluntary acknowledgement, or
By Court Order.
Presumption of Paternity.
A man is presumed to be the father of a child if:
He was married to the child’s mother when the child was born;
Was married to the child’s mother any time during the 300 days before the child was born;
Married the mother after the child was born and voluntarily claimed paternity of the child with the Bureau of Vital Statistics, on the child’s birth certificate, or in a record in which he promised to support the child as his own; or
During the first two years of the child’s life, continuously lived with the child and represented to others that the child was his own.
What if the presumed father is not the child’s father?
A presumed father is recognized by the law as the child’s legal father unless he signs a Denial of Paternity AND the true genetic father and mother sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity OR a court orders that he is not the legal father.
Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity.
Acknowledgment of Paternity is a form signed by a man to swear that he is the genetic father of a child. The child’s mother also must sign this document. This document must be filed with the Vital Statistics Unit in order to be valid.
Denial of Paternity.
A Denial of Paternity is a form signed by a presumed father to swear that he is NOT the child’s genetic father. To be valid, the child’s genetic father and mother must also sign the Acknowledgement of Paternity and both documents must be filed with the Vital Statistics Unit.
Court Ordered Paternity.
Paternity of a child can also be established by a Court. A parent, or other authorized person, may ask the court for an order establishing paternity of a child by filing a proceeding to adjudicate parentage of the child (also called a paternity case). Paternity cases must include the child’s mother, all alleged fathers, any presumed, acknowledged or adjudicated fathers, anyone with a court-ordered relationship with the child, and the Attorney General’s Office in cases where the child has received TANF and/or Medicaid, on behalf of the child.
Paternity is not an easy legal concept to handle on your own. It is important to retain an experienced attorney to help determine paternity issues. If you are concerned about this type of matter, our Round Rock divorce lawyers are ready and willing to help.