An Acknowledgment of Paternity: The journey toward fatherhood in Texas

Fatherhood is one of the greatest privileges a man can enjoy. At the same time, it is also a responsibility that requires a great deal of persistence. Fatherhood is not an occasional thing. Rather, it is an everyday reality and focus for families like yours. Having a child means taking responsibility for your child and your actions. Deciding to be part of a child’s life means committing to being there for him or her. In good times and bad. When things are going well, and life is a struggle. 

There are situations like the above where a man wants to be a part of a child’s life. On the other hand, there are also situations where a man is in a position where he needs to deny paternity. Does this match up with your situation? You are told that you are the father to a child. This comes as a shock to you. Once you learn that you are the supposed father to a child you get the impression that you need to act- and quickly. What should you do?

Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan relates to acknowledging and denying paternity. This is an important subject for many men in the Lone Star State. Stick with us today as we go through this subject for you. If you have any questions about what you read, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

Paternity in Texas

Before we go any further it is necessary to define what paternity is. Paternity refers to legally determining a child’s father. You may be the biological father to a child but not his legal father. The extra step involves paternity being adjudicated relating to you and the child. Establishing the parent-child relationship is what paternity does for you all. Paternity may be established either through a court or through completing an Acknowledgment of Paternity form. 

Rights and duties concerning a child are what a man gains by acknowledging paternity. Rights refer to the ability to make decisions on behalf of your child. Duties refer to the responsibilities that you hold over your child. Providing your child with resources to care for himself is one responsibility. Enrolling your child in school is another. Providing for his daily needs and safety is another overarching duty of a parent in Texas. 

Unmarried fathers and parental rights

An unmarried father of a child faces different challenges than a married father. An unmarried man has no presumed paternity to their child. For instance, let’s suppose that you and your girlfriend have a child together. You are confident that this is your child. You and your girlfriend have been in a relationship for many years faithfully. As a result, you do not doubt that this child is yours. When it comes time for you to be able to assert parental rights is not necessarily straightforward. The basis for this is that there are no presumed parental rights in an unmarried father.

Married men, on the other hand, are presumed to be the father of a child born by the man’s wife. This is true so long as the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days of a divorce. In any event, married men do not have to take any extra steps to acknowledge paternity. Rather, as a married man that is 1 less thing that you must concern yourself with. However, as we will see in a moment denying paternity may be something a married man has to investigate.

As an unmarried father, acknowledging paternity means filling out an acknowledgment of paternity form. This is a document that should be filled out and signed by you and your child’s mother. Once completed by both parties it should be filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Austin. That department allows you to acknowledge paternity. From there, no additional steps would need to be taken. If an acknowledgment opportunity cannot be signed then a paternity lawsuit needs to be filed in district court.

The importance of a Texas family law attorney in a paternity case

Make no mistake, a paternity case involves particularly sensitive issues. Having paternity established means looking into the incredibly personal subject matter. The decision to raise a child and acknowledge paternity means taking responsibility. By the same token, denial of paternity is also a crucial decision in and of itself. With the child whose paternity you’re denied hangs in the balance. Wanting to do what is just and right is a balance against doing what serves that child best.

When it comes to issues like this,  having the best representation matters. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to assist you. We offer free-of-charge consultations in person, over the phone, and via video. Our attorneys do not judge people for their circumstances or for the decisions that they make. Rather, we only seek to help provide information during these consultations.

Having an attorney in a paternity case is a short-term investment into your long-term future. It is certainly prudent to work alongside an attorney when handling matters related to the well-being of children and yourself. Do not take for granted what experience in a family law case can do for you and your family. Instead, consider how important a paternity case is and how an attorney may help you and your family.

The importance of establishing paternity

Establishing paternity means that your rights as a father to your children are preserved. Thereafter, you can weigh in on the decisions made concerning your child. There is no doubt that your role in the life of your child is critical. Therefore, establishing paternity is the first step towards ensuring your child receives your valuable input throughout their life.

This is not just an attorney speaking in generalities, either. Rather, there are specific benefits to the acknowledgment of paternity. These benefits are wide-ranging as well. It doesn’t just mean that you can help direct the life of your child daily. Rather, there are tangible long-term benefits that are available to you and your child. Those benefits are far-reaching and impact your child and a great many ways.

First, your ability to financially support your child is best preserved through acknowledging paternity. Technically, you can support your child even if you are not his biological father. However, by acknowledging paternity a court may assess child support against you. This is the primary means for many fathers to financially support their children. However, the court may not order child support until paternity is first acknowledged.  

Next, there are a great many benefits that are available to children via their parents. Consider that death benefits from Social Security and inheritance benefits under state law are not available to your child unless paternity is acknowledged or established. 

Medical issues and paternity

The other critical area of your life which your child has a right to know has to do with medical issues. Understanding their parent’s medical history is a valuable tool for your child. Indeed, understanding details about your medical situation helps your child plan. For example, if your family is prone to a particular type of cancer then your child may need to know that early on. This helps your child be able to avail himself of different types of treatment or prevention methods. However, this information would likely not be available to him but for an acknowledgment of paternity.

Completing an acknowledgment of paternity

The acknowledgment of paternity is a form that you would sign with your child’s mother which states that you are the child’s biological father. As discussed earlier, an acknowledgment of paternity is usually a form filed by unmarried parents of a child. When parents agree on the paternity of a child this document substitutes the need to go to court to establish paternity. By signing the form with your child’s mother, you become that child’s legal father. At that point, your rights and duties to the child are the same as a married father’s.

However, there are certain situations where an acknowledgment of paternity is not valid. First, if your child’s mother is married to another person when the child is born then that man is the child’s presumed father. Let’s assume a situation where you are the biological father to a child whose mother is married. In a situation like that, you would not be able to utilize an acknowledgment opportunity to establish paternity. The only exception to this would be if the child’s mother talked to her husband about filing a denial of paternity. 

In a situation like this, you would not be able to acknowledge paternity. You would first need to file a petition to establish paternity and bring to the court’s attention the circumstances of your case. From there, a court can go about the process of establishing paternity. This usually involves genetic testing. For your best interest, it is a good idea to hire an attorney. Your rights as a parent hang in the balance.

How to deny paternity

The simplest way to deny paternity is to complete a denial of paternity. As the name would indicate, a denial of paternity is the opposite of an acknowledgment of paternity. This legal form is signed by you if you are the presumed father to a child. When you believe that you are not the biological father of a child then you need to sign a denial of paternity.

A denial of paternity is effective when a biological father and the mother sign an acknowledgment of paternity. Once both forms are filed with the vital statistics unit are no longer the presumptive father. You are presumed to be the father of a child when you are married to the child’s mother when the child is born. When your wife gives birth to a child you are presumed to be that child’s father. We all know that life does not always work out in the way that we plan. A denial of paternity exists for situations where your wife becomes pregnant by another man.

Additionally, suppose that you and your wife are going through a divorce. So long as you were married to the child’s mother at any point during the 300 days before that child was born then you are still presumed to be the child’s father. This is important to note. Getting a divorce does not automatically absolve you of presumptive father status. Rather, the timeline allows for presumed paternity for a considerable amount of time after a divorce.

Other situations where paternity is presumed

There are many situations under which paternity may be presumed in you. The most common and straightforward is being married to the mother of the child. However, there are more involved circumstances where paternity may be presumed. Consider the following hypothetical situation. You are dating a woman who you know to be pregnant. Eventually, you ask the woman to marry you and she says yes.

All the while, your fiancé is unaware of who the biological father of her child is. This is a subject that the two of you never really discussed in depth. As a result, rather than asking these questions you simply choose to acknowledge paternity of the child once you all are married. You end up getting married about a month before your wife gives birth. From that point on, you acknowledge paternity with the Vital Statistics Unit. You also choose to do so on the child’s birth certificate. By taking both steps you become the presumed father of your child.

The other situation where that presumption of paternity comes into play relates to living for an extended period during the first two years of your child’s life. In that situation, so long as you live with the child continuously for the first two years of their life and hold that to others that the child is yours then paternity is presumed. Therefore, if you do not intend to become the presumptive father to a child it is best to avoid a situation like this.

Paternity issues and Texas families

There is little doubt that the issue of paternity is one where you want to make sure you are being fair and accurate. Very few people whatever want to do anything to harm a child unnecessarily. Rather, most of us want to do what is best for a child. However, that does not mean trying to acknowledge paternity unless you are the father of a child. Falsely acknowledging paternity potentially voids your acknowledgment. This is true when it involves the denial of the existence of a presumed or acknowledged father.

For any mothers out there reading this blog post, The Law Office of Bryan Fagan understands that this is a stressful time in your life. Preparing to give birth to a child is always stressful. However, the stakes are higher when you consider that paternity is not always straightforward. Being in a position where it becomes necessary to think through your options and make good decisions for the well-being of your family is a significant responsibility.

What are your plans and where are you going to turn for help? What are the different routes that you may take? How can you best protect your child? These are the sort of questions that beg for answers. Many times, people in your position will unnecessarily avoid the best long-term answer. Instead, they will resort to what works best now or is easiest. It is understandable to resort to this line of thinking. However, it very rarely serves anyone well in the long term.

Final thoughts on acknowledging paternity

Undoubtedly, whether you are a mother or father, you have questions that need answers surrounding the subject of paternity. Rather than searching in vain on the Internet why not consider the information contained in this blog post? Then, reach out to one of the experienced family law attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We are equipped to help you in whatever circumstance you find yourself.

A paternity case involves you, at least one other adult, and a child. With so much at stake and with so many people counting on you to make a good decision finding trustworthy help is essential. Thank you for choosing to spend part of your day with us today here on our blog. Help from our office is only a phone call away. We have office locations in every major metropolitan area of Texas. Additionally, telephone and video hearing options are also available with our attorneys.

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 licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. Interested in learning more about how your family is impacted by the material in this blog post? Contact us today.

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At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, the firm wants to get to know your case before they commit to work with you. They offer all potential clients a no-obligation, free consultation where you can discuss your case under the client-attorney privilege. This means that everything you say will be kept private and the firm will respectfully advise you at no charge. You can learn more about Texas divorce law and get a good idea of how you want to proceed with your case.

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