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 in working with young families is considering whether or not your child’s rights are protected. The fact of the matter is that children that are 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 he or she is born to married parents. If your child is not in this situation then today’s blog post will be especially relevant and important to you and your family.
Paternity and its affect on you and your child
Paternity refers to a legal relationship that your child has to his or her 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 in order 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. For all intents and purposes this leaves your child as having only one legally designated person who is obligated to care for and support him or her. This puts a burden upon you, your family and potentially the state of Texas in the event that additional support is needed beyond what you are able to provide to him or her.
From the perspective of the biological father, if you fail to formally acknowledge that you are the father of this child then you hold no legal rights or duties as to him or her. 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 important issues. Likewise, you are not entitled to visitation or possession of your child, either. To get to the point where your rights to possession, access, visitation and all the other important 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 of father of a child, you can allow your child to have legal rights and privileges in relation to 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 who their father was this can 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 him or her both financially and emotionally. Instead of being only able to rely upon their mother for the support that is necessary to sustain their life and help them to thrive, he or she will now have a legally designated father to help ease the burden on this front.
Finally, on some level 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- just ask anyone who does not know the identity of their father.
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 that 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 the fact that you may not have a great relationship with the father, it is in your best interests as well 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 who can be there in case you need to go out of town for work or for 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 legal father of a child you are able to 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 in regard to 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, but I want to bring to your attention the benefits that paternity has in terms of your ability to help make decisions for your child in regard to medical and education situations. You have no legal right to any of these things unless you formally and legally acknowledge paternity.
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 with out 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 the 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 come back to our blog tomorrow in order 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 of charge 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.