Paternity is one of the most common family law issues in Texas. It is important for both parents and the child that the paternity is known. This is so the mother will know who, along with her, is legally responsible for the child, the father can establish an all-encompassing relationship with the child, and the child will know who his or her biological father is. When the parents are not married to one another, the parents must be aware of how paternity can be established under the law.
The first way for paternity to be established is by signature to the Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) form. For the AOP to be valid, both parents must sign it voluntarily. If more than one man is the potential father, each should receive a DNA test prior to signing. The majority of couples sign the AOP while still at the hospital prior to the child’s birth, but it can also be signed after birth. Parents can also sign the AOP at the Vital Statistics Unit at the Department of State Health Services or a county clerk’s office. When parents sign the AOP, they will still need to have a court order if there are other issues that must be dealt with such as support, visitation, custody and medical support.
The second way to establish paternity is to seek a court order. To do this, a case can be opened with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). This will generally involve receiving DNA testing. The OAG will assist the parents in the establishment of paternity when the case commences and will also help with free genetic testing. If there is a need for support of the child and the parents have agreed on paternity, the order of support can be established at the local office. If there is an inability to agree on the paternity or other matters, the court will step in and resolve it.
When there is a court summons issued regarding paternity, it is imperative for the person to appear or the court can establish paternity unilaterally without the person’s presence. The court can decide on paternity without a paternity test and orders can be set for support, visitation, and other matters. If there are disputes regarding paternity or any other problem that has come up with establishing who the biological father is, it is particularly important to have legal help. For both the mother and the father, speaking to an attorney experienced in assisting with a paternity action is essential.
Source: texasattorneygeneral.gov, “Handbook For Noncustodial Parents — How is paternity established? pages 10-11,” access on March 20, 2017