Establishing paternity if you are an unmarried father

Dad holding up child

It is not uncommon for people to have children outside of marriage today. Millennials are increasingly putting off marriage until they are older, and some plan to never marry. However, many young people in committed relationships still have children together.

In these situations, regardless of how confident you are in the relationships with your partner and your baby, you would be wise to legally establish paternity.

Why establish paternity?

Establishing paternity is important for several reasons. First, it creates a legal connection between a father and child. This allows the father to request custody and exercise his parental rights. It will also enable mothers to pursue child support from the father, should the parents break up or divorce.

Another important reason to confirm paternity is to ensure a man is not legally and financially responsible for a child who is not his. It can also be emotionally devastating for everyone involved to learn after a considerable time that a presumed father has no biological connection to a child.

Finally, establishing paternity provides critical information into a child’s cultural background and genetic makeup, which can be invaluable with regard to a child’s identity and health.

How do I determine paternity?

There are two ways to establish paternity in Texas: voluntarily and involuntarily. If both the mother and father agree on paternity, then they will sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity. This is often – and easily – done at the hospital immediately after the child is born.

If parties have doubts or if they disagree on who the father is, then one of them can file a paternity suit with the courts. After a suit is filed, the presumed father will take a blood test to confirm or reject the biological relationship to the child. If a man doesn’t respond to the lawsuit, the courts can declare him to be the legal father.

Legal guidance when establishing paternity

Paternity cases can involve doubt, deceit and complicated relationships. As such, it is important for fathers and presumed fathers to have legal counsel who can be their advocate. Considering the fact that familial relationships and parental rights are on the line, it is crucial not to take any chances when navigating the legal system.

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