One of the most challenging family law-related circumstances that attorneys work on with clients is related to paternity. There are certain times where the father of a child is either entirely unknown at the time of the child's birth, or a mother is not quite sure who the father of her child is. During these times, a court would need to intervene to determine paternity to assign conservatorship rights to the child, child support for the child, and inheritance and other benefits available to that child through their relationship to the father. Issues regarding paternity go beyond the world of family law, to be sure.
In today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, I would like to spend some time discussing when paternity is assumed and when paternity needs to be adjudicated. There are several elements to this subject of family law that a mother or family of a child needs to become acquainted with to do what is necessary to determine parentage and help that child develop a relationship with their father.
What is a presumed father in Texas?
A man is presumed to be the father of a child in Texas when he is legally recognized as the father until a court can lawfully determine that he is the legal father. The simple way to do so, also known as voluntarily acknowledging paternity, would be for the presumed father to sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity. An agreed acknowledgment of paternity would be signed by the presumed father and the child's mother. The second way to legally determine a child's father would be to go through a Texas family court. A hearing will be held on the subject, and a judge would determine paternity based on the results of that hearing.
For those of you wondering, it is possible for a man who is not the biological father of a child to be named as that child's legally recognized father. Presumption of paternity occurs if the man is married to the child's mother and that child is born during the marriage. Keep in mind that if the mother's husband, he's not the biological father of that child, and he is still presumed to be the child's father in a legal sense. This can create issues for men in this position, and a challenge to paternity should be filed in family court as soon as possible after the husband learns that he is not that child's biological father. Failing to do so may put him in a position where he cannot challenge paternity, and he will have legal rights and duties in association with that child moving forward.
Another way that a Texas man can be presumed to be a child's father is if he were married to the mother of the child and the child was born before the passage of 300 days after the divorce. The other main circumstance in which a man would be presumed to be the legal father of a child is if he resided with the child during their first two years of life and he did so consistently in that child's household. In addition, the presumed father must have told other people that he was a child's father and have acted upon that belief. This is very similar to how a couple can be declared to be in a common-law marriage
Suppose any of these scenarios sound familiar to you, and you believe that you are not the biological father. In that case, you need to act quickly to challenge paternity in a state family law court. The legal process you would have to follow to do so would include filing a denial of paternity in the family law court and presenting evidence as to why you are not that child's biological father and should have no legal rights or duties in association with them. This is a challenging, emotionally volatile, and complex set of circumstances that you could find yourself in potentially. It is best to consult with an experienced family law attorney before proceeding on your own in a paternity challenge.
Why is legally establishing paternity for your child important?
I touched on this subject at the beginning of today's blog post but wanted to spend more time on why it's essential for your child to have a legally recognized father. Let's assume that you or a mother who gives birth to your son at the hospital and you are not entirely sure who the father of your child is. No man Contacts you regarding a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, and when you fill out the birth certificate for your child, you do not list the name of any man under the label of "father."
At this point, when you take your child home, he would not have a legally recognized father. At first, this did not seem like a big deal to you. After all: you are an independent person and have no problem with providing for your child or at least doing your best to attempt to do so for as long as you can. On top of that, you have a great support system with your mother and extended family in the area who can watch your son when you have to work or attend to other businesses. It is not your intent to try to yell any man who could be the father of your child into acknowledging paternity.
From my experience working with people in family law cases, I believe that this is a pretty common scenario among mothers who are not entirely sure who the biological father of their child is. Most mothers in these circumstances want what is best for their children. They believe that if a man Does not readily accept parenting responsibilities over that child, she will not force it upon anyone. While this may seem like practical info, even a fair way to go about things in the short run, I can tell you that there are many benefits to having you are child have a legally recognized father.
For one, your child should have a legal relationship with his or her father. This would allow your child to have their father's name on their birth certificate and also establishes rights for you to receive child support on behalf of that child. If we're thinking of things from a practical standpoint and not considering anything beyond the world of family law, child support is an essential aspect of a paternity case. Likely, you will not always be able to provide financially for your child, especially when turbulent economic times land on your doorstep. As a result, child support can be a straightforward means by which your child can be guaranteed a certain standard of living in good times and bad.
Another aspect of this discussion that is important to note would be that a court cannot order any person to provide health insurance or cash medical support for your child unless he is legally determined to be that child's father. Health care and health insurance coverage are essential aspects of most people's lives in this country. The discussion about health care seemingly will never end. Despite many politicians' attempts to solve the problem and combat the issue of rising health care costs, I would bet that this is a subject that does not go away anytime soon. You want to do your best to ensure that your child is covered with health insurance. If health insurance cannot be provided to your child, then The child's illegal father should be ordered to pay the state for any cost associated with covering your child with Medicaid.
If your child's father were to die suddenly, then he or she may be eligible for benefits provided to children of the deceased under the law and through life insurance policies. For instance, there is such a thing as survivors benefits in the world of Social Security where your child will be able to collect a monthly check on behalf of their deceased parent. Likewise, if your child's father had a life insurance policy that named your child as the beneficiary, then their death could wind up having a dramatic impact on your child's future financial state.
However, none of this we're going to move unless your child and their father had a legal relationship. It does not matter that the child's father publicly acknowledged paternity but never signed anything or went to court to define that legal relationship. A hunch or a gut feeling that this man is the child's father may limit their ability to benefit in some way from their fathers who had passed while they were a child. With so much on the line as far as finances are concerned, it is an excellent idea for your child to have a legally recognized father.
Another benefit to knowing who your child's father is and having him legally acknowledge as that child's parent is the ability for your child to learn more about what medical risks may confront them as they age. For instance, if you never put in the work to determine who your child's father was, then you may miss out on learning about cancer, mental health, or substance abuse issues that that father's family has a history of. Knowing in advance of any medical or mental health problems could go a long way towards preventing or successfully treating one of these issues.
Finally, one of the most immediate benefits that your child will receive from having a father had legally determined in a court would be that they are able to have visitation in possession Opportunities with their father. Again, I can completely understand your feeling that your child is better off not knowing a man who doesn't care to acknowledge paternity immediately. However, in the long run, I believe that children benefit from having a relationship with their parents. Even at the beginning of that relationship took some time to get off the ground; learning about your parents allows a child to learn more about who they are.
What can you do if you are a mother who wants to have paternity established for your child?
In my opinion, the best way to have paternity established for your child would be to file a paternity petition In the county where you and your child reside. That petition would ask the court to identify an alleged father of your child and then to name him that child's legal father. When that man will not voluntarily acknowledge paternity or agree to paternity with you, you are asking the judge to decide on issues regarding paternity. A DNA test would likely be ordered and is a very accurate way to determine if the man you suspect is your child's father indeed is your child's biological parent.
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 consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are an excellent way for you to learn more about Texas family law and the services that our law practice provides to our clients. I appreciate your interest in today's blog post topic, and we hope that you will join us again tomorrow for additional information about the world of Texas family law.