If you and your child’s mother were not married to each other at the time of his or her birth, it may shock you to learn that, per Texas law, your child has no legal father. This means that you have no legal rights to your child, including custody or visitation.
The Office of the Texas Attorney General explains that even if you and your child’s mother agree privately that you are the child’s biological father, you must do more than that to establish paternity. You have the following three options regarding how you go about doing that:
- You and the mother sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity.
- You and the mother sign an agreed paternity order which a judge must approve.
- You ask a judge to declare you the child’s legal father.
Acknowledgment of Paternity
You and your child’s mother can obtain an AOP form for free in the following ways:
- Ask the hospital where your child was born
- Ask at any AOP-certified agency such as the Attorney General’s Office or a vital statistics office
- Call the AOP Hotline
Both you and your child’s mother must sign the AOP form and submit it to an AOP-certified agency for filing. At this point, you become your child’s legal father and the State of Texas will put your name on your child’s birth certificate.
Agreed paternity order
If you and your child’s mother agree on not only your paternity, but also about child custody, support and visitation, the two of you can sign an agreed paternity order and present it to a judge for his or her approval. Many Texas couples hire an attorney to help them draft this order and make sure it contains all appropriate language. Others obtain help from the Child Support Division. Either way, once the judge approves your agreement, you become your child’s legal father.
Should you and your child’s mother disagree that you are your child’s biological father, your only remaining option is to go to court and ask a judge to issue an Order of Paternity. Again, you can avail yourself of a private attorney or of the Child Support Division. Be prepared to take a court-approved paternity test since over-the-counter paternity test results are inadmissible in court. If working through the Child Support Division, you may not need to pay for this test.
This educational information is not legal advice, but it can help you understand what you should do to establish paternity of your children.