In today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we are going to cover how to ask a family court judge to name a legal father to a child. A paternity order does not necessarily only have to include a decision on paternity, however. Different parts of a family law case like child custody, visitation, child support, cash medical support, and dental support can also be covered by a paternity order. These are the foundational elements to a child custody case and establishing conservatorship related to a child, so we hope that this blog post contains the sort of information you need to begin a more thorough understanding of this subject.
A paternity order states who is the legal father of a child. Simply put all legal rights that a father can have stem from this document. Married men do not have a court order to establish paternity. Paternity is presumed as you were married to your spouse at the time your wife gave birth. Absent evidence to the contrary you will be presumed to be that child's father which means your name will appear on the birth certificate of that child. Additionally, a court does not need to establish paternity if you and your co-parent agree to sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity. This form will also establish paternity and does not require that you and your co-parent enter a courtroom to do so.
While paternity is the headliner when it comes to establishing a specific thing in your case, other issues can be outlined in the paternity order, as well. For instance, once you are determined to be the legal father to a child you will also be able to have conservatorship rights and duties created in the order. Conservatorship means the legal right to make decisions for another person and the duty to care for that person. Visitation references the ability to spend time with your child. Child support, cash medical support, and dental support are forms of monetary support that help your child be able to attend to their medical needs with time. These sorts of benefits can be provided by the state and reimbursed by you, provided by you, or provided by your co-parent.
Rather than go about a paternity case on your own with zero guidance it could be that you are better suited to contact an experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan before beginning a case. The time commitment to a case is substantial- and that is if you get everything correct and do not make any mistakes. Throw in the possibility of having to go back and correct those mistakes and an already expensive process can become that much more difficult to afford. With that said, you can hire an attorney to help you prepare your case and see to it that the chances of your making a mistake are kept to a minimum.
Another option for you to pursue would be to contact the Office of the Attorney General to start a case. The attorney general is the state agency or department in Texas that oversees the payment and distribution of child support. You can contact their office and express a willingness to establish paternity and begin paying child support as a result. While the OAG does not represent you or your co-parent, they can file a case and help you to push the case along the process so that you do not experience any sort of delays or other hindrances in your case.
Acknowledgment of Paternity
As we referenced a moment ago, one other option that you could use to pursue having paternity established in your case would be to talk with your child's mother about signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity. This is a form that can be picked up at the hospital when your child is born or can be printed off on the internet. Once you and your co-parent sign the form you will send it to the Bureau of vital statistics in Austin. You would then become the legal father of the child and be able to have conservatorship rights assigned as well as child support.
One of the main benefits of having an Acknowledgment of Paternity establish paternity is that you do not need to go to court to have paternity established. This will save you time from having to take off from work to go to court, possibly more than once. The second thing that an Acknowledgment of Paternity will do for you saves you money. It costs money to hire an attorney, file a petition to establish paternity, and conduct the business of going to court. An acknowledgment of paternity is a basic document that can be signed quickly and filed quickly, as well. This is a money-saving measure if I have ever seen one.
One of the downsides of having paternity established through an acknowledgment of paternity is that while it does establish paternity it does not establish any other orders like conservatorship and visitation. To do that you would still need to file a paternity case with the court and negotiate with your co-parent on these subjects. This is not the end of the world by any means, but it is also not ideal if you are trying to save time or money.
You should talk to your child’s mother about the situation before signing anything. Even if you wholeheartedly believe that you are the father to the child you need to have an honest discussion with her to confirm your feelings. While you can go back and try to retract an acknowledgment of paternity it would be better for you to not fill one out incorrectly or before you are ready to do so. If you are established as the legal father to a child and then have child support assessed against you it is still the case that you would need to pay child support as ordered until you can have your acknowledgment of paternity thrown out.
Commonly asked questions about paternity in Texas
When it comes to paternity in Texas, the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan have faced a series of questions consistently from clients and potential clients alike. What I would like to do in this section of today's blog post would be to pose these questions and then answer them so that you can better know how to prepare for your case. The better prepared you can be in a child custody, paternity, or divorce case the more effectively you can manage your case.
Paternity is being able to legally identify as the father to a child. Paternity means that you are the father to the child in the eyes of the law. This does not mean that you are necessarily the biological father to a child. It happens that a man who is not the biological father to a child is not always the biological father to a child. This can happen when you are mistakenly named as the biological father to a child and then must fight to have that designation overturned. When you are named as the legal father to a child you have the right to make decisions for that child as well as a duty to care for that child. This is part of a case where you will need to prepare to negotiate with the child's mother or to make arguments to a court when it comes to parenting rights and duties. Visitation, possession, child support, and medical support are other issues that you will have a say so in when you are named as the legal father to a child.
Married men are presumed to be the father of a child who is born to that man's wife during their marriage. Even if you were to get a divorce, you are still presumed to be the father to any child born of your ex-wife within 300 days of your divorce having been granted. However, it is only in a marriage where this presumption of paternity applies. In all other scenarios, you need to be able to do something proactive to be adjudicated as the father of this child. We have already talked about how that process involves either filing an Acknowledgment of Paternity along with your child's mother or filing a petition to establish paternity with a family court that has jurisdiction over your case.
Looking closer at an Acknowledgment of Paternity
An Acknowledgment of Paternity is a legal document that is signed by you and your child's mother which states that you are the biological father of the child in question. If you and the other parent agree that you are the child's father, but you are not married then you should both sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity and have it filed with the Bureau of vital statistics for the State of Texas. Once completed and signed by you and the mother you will become the legal father to the child listed on the form. You would have the same rights and duties to the child in that case as the child’s mother has.
One of the trickier situations that you may find yourself in regarding the paternity of a child is if you are the biological father to a child but the child's mother is married at the time of the child's birth. We have discussed how a presumption applies when a woman is married and gives birth to a baby- the husband is legally presumed to be the father of the child. In a situation like this, you would not be able to sign an acknowledgment of paternity with the mom to establish paternity in your name. You would need to file a petition to adjudicate paternity with the court. The exception to this rule is if the husband is willing to sign a denial of paternity concurrent to your signing the acknowledgment of paternity.
A denial of paternity is a legal document that a presumed father (typically a woman’s husband) would sign that indicates he is not the genetic father to the child despite being the presumed father. The mother of the child would also need to sign the denial of paternity for it to be a valid document.
Why should you try to establish paternity?
Establishing paternity means that you as a father will solidify your rights to your child. Remember that this can't happen automatically unless you are married to the woman who gives birth to your child. In other scenarios, you need to do something about establishing legal paternity. It is not enough to simply send in the results of a DNA test to a court. Rather, you must go through a legal process or agree with the child’s mother to fill out an acknowledgment of paternity together. Unless you do one of these things then you will not be legally declared as the father to this child. You may be the child’s biological father, but you will not be that child’s legal father.
Your child benefits from having you legally declare his father, as well. For one your child can get started with receiving financial assistance from you. You may already be providing him with financial assistance but by becoming the legal father to your child you will gain the ability to pay child support through a court. This makes the payments official and locks you into a schedule by which your child can expect regular payments of support. A court cannot order you to pay child support until you are declared to be the legal father of that child.
Your child can also receive benefits from you if you are named as his legal father. Social Security benefits, insurance benefits as well as being able to inherit property from you are all possible once you have been declared as the legal father to this child. Your child also has a right to be able to find out about different medical conditions that you may have to better prepare themselves for adulthood. By becoming the child’s legal father, you also make it possible for the child to know your medical history.
Is there a difference between a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship and a paternity lawsuit?
A Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship is also known as a SAPCR. This is a typical child custody case that seeks to establish things like conservatorship, child support, visitation, and other issues for a minor child. A SAPCR is frequently filed to establish these things for a child whose parents are not married. You can file a SAPCR once you have established the legal father to a child. You may file a petition to establish paternity along with the SAPCR. Once you are determined to be the legal father to a child you would have stood to file a SAPCR, as well.
A SAPCR can establish conservatorship over the child. Conservatorship refers to the ability to make decisions on behalf of a child as well as the duty to care for a child. Conservatorship rights are typically divided on a joint basis between parents after a child custody case. However, you and your child's mother can negotiate on this subject and determine how best to divide rights and duties considering your circumstances and the needs of your child. Two of the most important rights concerning a child are the right to receive child support and the right to determine the primary residence of the child. The duties concerning a minor child relate to the duty to support the child and provide him or her with a basic education.
Child support is usually paid by the parent who is not the primary conservator. Child support is paid monthly and is determined by multiplying a percentage against your net monthly income based on how many children you have before the court. Child support payments should not be made directly to your child's other parent but should go through the office of the attorney general so that the payments can be counted on your official child support account. Making direct payments means that the amounts that you pay this way will not be reflected on the child support website.
Finally, visitation will also be determined in a child custody case. This means that you will have a specific schedule established for you and your child when it comes to how frequently you can see him or her. This allows both of you to have a predictable schedule to go by moving forward.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensedfamily law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody lawsuit.
Other Related Articles
- Establishing Paternity: The First Step in Texas
- Can I refuse a court-ordered paternity test?
- Child Custody & Paternity Information from the Texas Attorney General
- When Paternity is Uncertain in a Texas Child Support Case
- When is paternity assumed?
- Establishing paternity in Texas: Why it matters to you even if you’re not the father
- Paternity issues in a Texas family law case: Getting past the awkward to stabilize your child’s life
- What happens if a court order paternity test shows you are the father of the child?
- What does an Acknowledgment of Paternity actually say?
- How can you establish paternity of your child in Texas?