Establishing paternity is an important step for both parents in the state of Texas. For the father, it provides certain rights they’d otherwise have no access to. For the mother, it opens the door to receiving financial support for their child. Unfortunately, it’s not always as simple to establish legal paternity as one might hope. Even if the biological father of a child is known at birth, there’s no guarantee that a legal parent-child relationship exists. If you’ve found yourself in a position where identifying a child’s father is necessary, a paternity lawyer in Houston may be able to help.
At Von Dohlen Law Firm, our focus on family law has let us help many parents understand Texas statutes and how to assert their rights. We know that a child’s life is greatly affected by who they identify as their father — and we know that in some cases, this isn’t always the biological father. The one element of these issues that remains consistent is that they can be complex. Fortunately, you don’t have to figure out these matters on your own. Contact Von Dohlen Law Firm today to schedule a consultation and learn more about establishing paternity and how to simplify the process.
Why Is Identifying a Child’s Father So Important?
There are some people who take on a parent-child relationship with zero legal requirements to do so. This is common when someone remarries, but even unmarried parents often behave as a family in situations where the state of Texas recognizes no legal father. A piece of paper obviously does not dictate how a parent and child feel about each other, but there are still many different reasons why paternity matters. Without such legal recognition, both the mother and father of a child may have trouble asserting their legal rights.
For instance, a mother will have difficulty getting a child support order without first establishing paternity. The courts will not force someone to pay support based on the word of the mother alone. Establishing parentage through a DNA test may also be the only way to identify the legitimate father if the mother was married to someone else at the time of the child’s birth. Being married at birth automatically establishes paternity, but if a woman is married to a non-biological parent, genetic testing may be the only way to legally document the true father.
Establishing parentage is also in the best interest of fathers who want to assert their rights as a parent. Put simply, a father has no legal rights if paternity is not established. This means they cannot make any important decisions for their child, and they have no visitation rights either. In fact, they won’t even have a say in the matter if the mother decides to place the child up for adoption. Fathers of children born out of wedlock have to take extra steps to assert their parental rights. Fortunately, Texas tries to make this process as simple as possible. In fact, it’s even possible for a non-biological father to establish paternity through adoption.
Does a Birth Certificate Establish Paternity?
Many people make the mistake of believing that a birth certificate automatically establishes paternity. Even though the record of birth is issued by a government agency, it doesn’t grant legal rights. It’s important to note, though, that parents of a child born in Texas will not have to worry about this issue. That’s because unmarried parents have to fill out a legal form called a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) before the father can sign a birth certificate. This immediately establishes paternity. Many other states do not require this step, so if you move to Texas from elsewhere, even a signed birth certificate may not help your case.
Establishing legal paternity is much simpler when two parents are wed prior to a child’s birth. That’s because there’s a legal presumption in Texas that a child born to a married couple is the legitimate offspring of the husband. This means the married man will have rights to child custody, but they’ll also have a responsibility for child support. Even if the husband is not present to sign the birth certificate, their marriage establishes a legal presumption of parentage. As such, no DNA testing or AOP form will need to be signed. If you’re in a position where parentage isn’t assumed, however, paternity attorneys in Houston can help.
How Can You Make Someone Pay Child Support in Texas?
Once paternity has been established, the father of a child has a responsibility to provide financial support. The child’s mother can seek a court order for these payments during a divorce, or if she was never married to the father, she can seek an order for genetic testing. Of course, this process is unnecessary if the parents agree in their paternity case and sign an AOP legal form. This is why parents who can work out their own issues will have a much easier time, legally speaking. If you’re concerned about seeking financial support due to child custody issues, don’t worry. An order for support will not immediately grant visitation rights.
This is an important distinction when issues such as domestic violence exist. It’s essential to remember, however, that any action that establishes child support rights will likely result in a custody hearing as well. A judge may decide that one parent has sole rights over the child, but this will not always be the case. As long as you realize that seeking to establish parentage for child support leaves the door open for potential custody issues, you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into. Obviously, these can be complex matters. As such, you shouldn’t hesitate to seek the advice of an experienced Houston paternity lawyer.
Contact a Paternity Lawyer in Houston Today
Whether you want to establish legal rights over your child or get child support from their father, establishing paternity is essential. This may seem complicated — particularly when the parents refuse to work together — but Texas law does try to simplify the matter. This is why you can establish legal paternity by doing little more than signing a document, and if one parent will not do so, the court can order genetic testing to prove conclusively who is the biological father. Of course, a person doesn’t have to be a blood relative to establish paternity. This and many other potential issues prove just how complex this legal area can be.
At Von Dohlen Law Firm, we understand that determining a child’s parentage is important. If you’re willing to work with the other parent, this can be a simple and unstressful endeavor. Even if the identity of the biological father is unclear or the parental relationship is strained, though, our paternity lawyer in Houston can help you navigate this complicated legal landscape. Regardless of what situation you find yourself in, you have legal options to assert your rights. Contact us today by calling 713-844-8396 to schedule a one-on-one consultation. You need a dedicated legal advocate on your side, and that’s exactly what we offer.