Establishing fatherhood: Texas paternity law and procedure

Texas has adopted the Uniform Parentage Act that governs paternity proceedings within the state.

Paternity means the legal determination of who the father of a child is. Paternity issues can arise in a few different scenarios, but the usual situation is when the mother is unmarried.

Benefits of legal fatherhood

For a child, having a legal father can bring many benefits. First, having an ongoing, positive relationship with his or her father brings a child the obvious rewards of emotional security, and parental guidance and protection. Even if they do not have a close relationship, the child has the right to financial support from both parents and can benefit from knowing the father's medical history.

In many cases, a legal father will be required to pay child support to the mother, if they do not live together, and may be ordered to contribute to health care and child care expenses. Sometimes the father can get custody and visitation rights also.

The child will also acquire property rights through his or her legal father such as potential government benefits like Social Security or veterans' benefits, inheritance rights, insurance benefits and more.

For the parents, the obvious benefits are the establishment of the parental relationship, parenting time for the father and possible transfer of child support payments. Of course, the parents may not have the same goals for the paternal relationship and that can cause conflict.

Texas paternity law

Paternity law in Texas is governed mostly by the Uniform Parentage Act, adopted by the legislature as part of the Texas Family Code. Uniform acts are laws drafted by a panel of legal experts for consideration by state legislatures. Family law topics like paternity are mostly matters of state law, easier to administer when people move between states or families are split between states, if the controlling laws among various state jurisdictions are more uniform.

The Uniform Parentage Act in Texas is quite long and very complex. Any mother or father dealing with parentage issues, or man named in a paternity action, should seek the advice and representation of a knowledgeable Texas family attorney with specific experience with Texas paternity laws.

Determining the legal father

Paternity can be established in Texas three different ways: by a presumption or an acknowledgment or in a court proceeding. The law presumes that a particular man is the father of a child in several specific situations, most commonly when the parents are married. The presumption of fatherhood can be overcome in a court proceeding or when the father executes a legal form called a Denial of Paternity, if the biological father and mother will also voluntarily sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity (the second way to establish paternity).

Filing a paternity suit in a Texas state court is the third method of determining fatherhood. Paternity suits, known as Adjudication of Parenthood, are decided by judges without juries, presumably for privacy reasons. The judge can order genetic testing if any party to the paternity action requests it or the parties can voluntarily agree to submit to such testing without a court order.

This article just scratches the surface of Texas paternity law; remember if you have paternity law concerns in Texas to seek out a skilled family lawyer for counsel.

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