When a couple who is not married has a child together, establishing paternity can be an important matter that can significantly affect the rights and responsibilities of the parents and the child. When a couple is married, the paternity of a child born of that marriage is a matter of law, but an unmarried couple must take additional steps to establish their child’s paternity. If you have a legal issue related to paternity, you should call a Killeen family law attorney as soon as you can.
The Importance of Establishing Paternity
Establishing a child’s paternity is important on a variety of different levels, including:
- For Establishing Legal Rights – Paternity is important for establishing a father’s custody rights and also for establishing a child’s right to financial support (child support). These legal rights extend to the right to receive important information about the child’s medical care, education, and religious upbringing and can include the father’s right to participate in the decision-making processes related to these important subjects.
- For Purposes of Personal Identity – Paternity opens up the father’s side of the family to the child and is usually enriching for all involved.
- For Purposes of Fostering a Father-Child Relationship – Research indicated that children are healthier and happier when they have two parents in their lives.
- For Health Reasons – A child’s medical records and history are not complete without important information related to his or her father. When the child's paternity is established, he or she has more thorough access to information about important health matters that can inform future medical diagnosis and treatment.
When a child is born in Texas to an unwed mother, paternity remains undetermined until the couple signs an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP), which can be done in the hospital at the time of birth. The AOP is then filed with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit, and the child’s paternity and all parental rights and responsibilities are subsequently established. The AOP is free to complete, and if the father is not available to sign it at the hospital, he can file it later at a state-certified office.
Issues with Paternity
Sometimes, paternity is unclear for any number of reasons. If the presumptive father denies his paternity, for example, it will need to be established through the court. This can be accomplished by opening a child support case with the Office of the Attorney General. Establishing paternity early in a child’s life is important for emotional, legal, and financial reasons, and an experienced Killeen family law attorney can help.