Legal Representation to Establish Paternity for Unmarried Couples
Paternity refers to legal childhood. In Texas, paternity is not automatically established for the children of unmarried couples; however, parents have rights and responsibilities regarding children under the age of 18, even if they were unmarried when the child was born. Unwed parents who do not establish paternity may be forfeiting their legal rights. Establishing paternity is crucial for giving fathers a voice when decisions are made regarding child custody, visitation, and support.
Under the law, unmarried biological fathers do not have legal rights to their children until they establish paternity. If you’re seeking to establish paternity in Texas, the experienced family lawyers with Stepp & Sullivan can help.
How does Paternity Work in Houston, TX?
Under Texas law, a child born to a married couple is presumed to be the offspring of the husband. However, paternity, also known as “parentage,” becomes important when a child is born to parents who are not married. Going through the legal process to establish paternity is important for both parents if their relationship does not continue as the child grows.
Most parents establish paternity for the following reasons:
- To establish legal conservatorship (custody)
- To request a modification of custody
- To establish visitation rights
- To collect child support
- To collect benefits (like health insurance)
Working with a qualified paternity lawyer is the key to successfully establishing paternity in Houston.
3 Ways to Establish Paternity in Houston, TX
There are different ways to establish parentage in Texas. The one that works best for you depends on your specific situation and your relationship with the child’s other parent.
- Marriage. If both parents get married, the child is presumed to be the offspring of the spouses.
- Acknowledgment of Paternity. If the parents agree as to who the child’s father is, they may complete and sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form. Parents usually do so in the hospital at birth. The AOP must also go to the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics. This is the easiest way to establish paternity when the parents are not married.
- Paternity Lawsuit. If the parents do not agree on who the child’s father is, it’s necessary to file a paternity suit in court. This may include getting a DNA test to determine biological parentage. More than one person may file a petition for a paternity lawsuit, including:
- The child’s mother;
- The child’s alleged father;
- The child’s representative; and
- A government agency seeking support for the child
What Rights do Parents Have in Houston, TX?
After the parents file an AOP or a party files a lawsuit for parentage, both parents have certain legal rights, including the support of their child and rights to possess and access the child. Regardless of how you establish paternity, you may need legal assistance to receive child support. A paternity attorney can also help with matters that arise after paternity is established.
Unmarried Mothers’ Rights: Unmarried mothers usually bear the biggest financial burden when raising a child. Without establishing a legal father, a single mother cannot ask for child support legally, which would help cover the costs associated with raising the child.
Single Fathers’ Rights: More unmarried fathers wish to establish a relationship with their children and participate in decision-making regarding their children’s upbringing. Without establishing parentage, the mother has no obligation to allow the father to participate in the child’s upbringing.
Why Do You Need to Work with a Houston Paternity Lawyer?
A paternity attorney in Houston will work hard to protect your parental rights. Paternity cases can be highly complex no matter what avenue you choose to establish parentage. At Stepp & Sullivan, PC, we aim to make the process as simple as possible.