Fatherhood is not something the law takes for granted in this day and age. In fact, here in Texas, if a baby is born to unmarried parents, then the child has no father in the eyes of the law. Without establishing paternity, a father will have no legal rights vis-à-vis his child should he and the mother ever split up.

The importance of understanding this point of law is underscored by a recent piece penned by our Attorney General, Greg Abbott. The article is available on the Texas Attorney General’s website, but a few points are worth emphasizing here on our Dallas family law blog as well.

Attorney General Abbott explains that paternity of a child whose parents are not married is typically established through what is called a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity. An AOP is something many unmarried parents will be eager to sign immediately upon the birth of the baby, right there at the hospital. Without an AOP, not only are fathers in Texas are not permitted to include their names on the birth certificate, but both the father and the child will lose out on certain legal rights.

A child, for example, can benefit from child support, health insurance, Social Security and other forms of support from the man legally recognized as the father. A father, in turn, can legally enforce his visitation rights if he and the mother separate; he can also seek primary custody of the child. This can be especially important if he feels the mother is unfit or otherwise not acting in the child’s best interest.

Readers here in Dallas with an interest in fathers’ rights issues like this are encouraged to read Attorney General Abbott’s entire piece online by following the source link below. They should also watch for our next post, which will look at a real-world case of a well-known father filing a paternity action to enforce his parental rights.

Source: Texas Office of the Attorney General, “Establishing Paternity at Birth Gives Children a Good Start in Life,” Greg Abbott, May 14, 2014