Fathers are generally considered extremely important to the well being of their children, both emotionally and financially. Identifying the father of a child is important because it gives legal rights and benefits to the father, the mother and the child.
Paternity refers to the legal recognition of a man as the father of a child. In Texas, if a child is born within a marriage, the law presumes that the husband is the legal father unless paternity is established otherwise in a paternity suit. If a child is born outside of a marriage, there is no legal father unless steps are taken to establish paternity.
How to establish paternity
In Texas, paternity can be established in two ways — administratively by filing a form or judicially through formal court proceedings. Proceeding administratively requires the cooperation of the mother and father. This method saves the parents money and usually proceeds quickly. The parents sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form and file it with the Bureau of Vital Statistics. If the Bureau of Vital Statistics approves the form, paternity is established. If one parent won’t cooperate to sign an AOP, paternity must be proven judicially. It is beneficial for the parent seeking to establish paternity to consult with an experienced family law attorney to prove paternity through the courts.
Why establish paternity
Identifying the legal father is important because in addition to knowing the identity of the father, it may allow the child to receive the father’s health and life insurance benefits as well as an inheritance. Paternity gives both parents the right to get a child support order, get a court order for visitation or custody, and gives the father legal rights to have a say in many decisions made for the child. It’s important to have paternity legally recognized because if not, there is no legal recourse if the father dies, becomes disabled, or simply decides to stop paying voluntary child support.
Fathers have the duty to financially and emotionally support their children. It’s best if paternity is established sooner rather than later so that the child and the parents can all benefit.