Your Rights in a Paternity Dispute in Texas

Scales of Justice

Why You Want to Establish Paternity

If you are unmarried but have children, you should consider taking the steps to establish paternity, to protect both your rights and the rights of your child. In the state of Texas, the child of an unmarried couple has no legal father until there is a determination of paternity. A court cannot order the payment of child support without a determination of paternity. A non-custodial dad has no rights to visitation or custody until paternity is established. In many instances, a child may not receive benefits under a father's insurance plan until paternity is demonstrated. Government programs, such as Social Security and veteran's benefits, may be unavailable without a showing of paternity.

How You Can Establish Paternity

The simplest way to establish paternity, when the issue is not contested, is to execute an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP). The form is usually available at the hospital. Once the father and mother sign the AOP, and it is filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics, the biological father has all legal rights with respect to the child.

Paternity can also be established or refuted through DNA testing. If the mother of the child asks the alleged father to sign the AOP, but he refuses, the mother can either contact an attorney or the office of the state's Attorney General and file documents to initiate a child support case. Likewise, if a man believes a child is his, but the mother will not sign the AOP, he can hire a private attorney and take legal action to seek visitation or custody. As part of either process, the mother or the father can file a request for DNA testing.

If the mother is married to someone other than the alleged or agreed-upon biological father, or if the child is born within 300 days of the mother's divorce from a man who is not the biological father, the law requires the husband or former husband to execute a Denial of Paternity. Even though the biological father signs an AOP, he will not have full legal rights with respect to the child until the husband signs the Denial of Paternity.

Contact the Pfister Family Law

At Pfister Family Law, we bring more than 20 years of experience to men and women throughout north Texas. Attorney John Pfister is board-certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We understand that every case is unique, and take the time to learn the details of your situation so that we can formulate a specific strategy to get the outcome you want. We offer experienced and successful trial counsel or can help you to resolve your family law differences through alternative means, including negotiated settlements or mediation.

For an appointment with an experienced divorce lawyer, contact our office by e-mail or call us at (972) 370-5172.

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