If you are a mother who has just given birth to a son or daughter, your concerns are likely related to making sure that child is safe, healthy, and well provided for in the years to come. These are understandable and well-justified concerns, but there is another side to this conversation that I believe more mothers like yourself should be concerned with as well.
That side of the conversation that is not discussed nearly enough from my experience working with young families is considering whether or not your child's rights are protected. The matter is that children born to unmarried parents do not have the same legal rights established as children born to married parents. The basis for this statement is that a child has a presumed father if they are returned to married parents. If your child is not in this situation, today's blog post will be especially relevant and important to you and your family.
Paternity and its effect on you and your child
Paternity refers to a legal relationship your child has with their father. As we just stated a moment ago, if your baby were to be born to married parents, then the State of Texas automatically declares that you and your spouse are the legal parents of your child. At this stage, you and your spouse would not need to take any additional steps to validate this relationship.
However, if you are not married at the time your child is born, then there is no such presumption that goes into place. There is no legal recognition of the biological father as the legal father of your child. This leaves your child with only one legally designated person obligated to care for and support them. This puts a burden upon you, your family, and potentially the state of Texas if additional support is needed beyond what you can provide to them.
From the perspective of the biological father, if you fail to acknowledge that you are the father of this child formally, you hold no legal rights or duties. You are not obligated to provide support, but at the same time, you are not able to make decisions or contribute to the decision-making process regarding essential issues. Likewise, you are not entitled to visitation or possession of your child, either. To get to the point where your rights to custody, access, visitation, and other essential components of fatherhood are protected, you will first need to establish legal paternity.
What are the benefits of establishing paternity for your child?
Whether you are the mother or father of a child, you can allow your child to have legal rights and privileges about their father if you help establish legal paternity. For starters, consider that your child will get to know who their father is and who is on that side of their family by establishing legal paternity. If you grew up with friends or family members who did not know their father, this could leave a big hole in their lives. Not to mention the fact that these folks can spend a large chunk of time attempting to figure out who their father is.
Beyond knowing who their father is, your child will be able to rely on their father to support them both financially and emotionally. Instead of being only able to rely upon their mother for the necessary support to sustain their life and help them thrive, they will now have a legally designated father to help ease the burden on this front.
Finally, we as human beings need to know who our parents are to help establish our identities. By establishing paternity early on, your child will know who she came from, where she came from and what that means for her. This is no small benefit that you can bestow upon your child- ask anyone who does not know their father's identity.
What are the benefits of establishing paternity as the child's mother?
If you are the mother of a child who is not married to the child's father, you receive all of the above benefits that your child does. We talked about all the different concerns and hopes you have as a mother for your child. What better way to ensure the early success of your child than to receive some much-needed help from the child's father. Ideally, your child will benefit from establishing a consistent and stable relationship with their father as well.
I'm sure some of you are reading this and thinking that you do not want your child to have anything to do with their father. Many mothers have come in to talk to me about their situation and have asked me how to get "full custody" of their newborn child or even how to terminate the father's parental rights (legally established or not). While I can appreciate that you may not have a great relationship with the father, it is in your best interests for this man to play a role in your child's life.
The reason being is that you want your child to have a legally designated father. Not only to ease the burden on your child but also to ease the burden on you. It is a lot of pressure to care for a child on your own without any assistance. Even if you and the child's father do not have a great relationship, it is nice to have someone there if you need to go out of town for work or a family function. In addition, the support that your child receives monetarily from the father can be a great benefit to you as well.
What are the benefits of establishing paternity as the child's father?
By becoming the child's legal father, you can see your name appear on the child's birth certificate. In the future, if your child's mother wants to take your child to another state or restrict your ability to spend time with the child, you have the right to file a lawsuit to create court orders regarding visitation that ensure your ability to develop and maintain a relationship with your child.
Fathers usually consider the time aspect of paternity first and foremost. Still, I want to bring to your attention the benefits that paternity has in terms of your ability to help make decisions for your child regarding medical and education situations. You have no legal right to any of these things unless you formally and legally acknowledge paternity.
You are taken in combination; acknowledging paternity and legally establishing yourself as your child's father is probably the best and most responsible decision that you will make in your entire life. It is a selfless step to take and also the right one. Imagine living your life knowing that there is a child out there who is yours who you have never acknowledged. That child will grow up without your assistance, benefit, and guidance. While it may not seem like a big issue right now, I can almost guarantee you that in time you will regret not having taken steps to become the legal father to your child.
More on paternity and children in Texas will be posted in tomorrow's blog post.
If you are interested in this topic, please return to our blog tomorrow to learn more about paternity issues and family law in Texas. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this subject or any other in family law, please do not hesitate to contact our office. We offer free consultations with a licensed family law attorney six days a week. It would be our honor to sit down with you and answer whatever questions you may have.