When you have a child in Texas and you and the mother have not married, you must take steps to declare paternity. Doing so allows you to preserve your parental rights and develop a relationship with your child.
Review these important considerations if you are expecting or have a baby in Texas as an unmarried father.
How to establish paternity
If you and the child’s mother agree that you are the biological father of the infant, you can both sign the state Acknowledgement of Paternity form. Do not sign this form if either of you has doubts about the child’s paternity. In that case, either of you can request services from the Texas Child Support Division.
When you open a case, the court will order a DNA test to establish paternity. If you are the child’s legal father, the judge will make a determination about custody, visitation and child support.
Why establish legal paternity
Even if you have a good relationship with the child’s mother, you should take steps to declare legal paternity. Without this assurance in place, the Texas court can make decisions about your child without your consent. You should seek attorney representation and attend every scheduled court hearing.
When you have legal paternity, you can request both physical and legal custody. Physical custody, which you can share with the other parent, describes where the child lives. You can also share legal custody, which describes the right to make decisions about important things in the child’s life, such as education and health care.
Having paternity also allows your child to collect benefits on your behalf, such as Social Security or veterans benefits.