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How can I establish paternity in Texas?

If your child was born in Texas but you were not married to his or her mother at the time of the birth, you have no legal rights to your child nor he or she to you. The Texas Attorney General’s office advises that even when you and the child’s mother are in agreement about your biological fatherhood, Texas does not consider you to be the legal father. In other words, your child has no legal father until such time as you establish your paternity.

Establishing paternity in Texas is a relatively simple procedure, and you have the following three choices about how to do it:

  1. You and your child’s mother can sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity.
  2. You and your child’s mother can sign an agreed paternity order and ask a judge to approve it.
  3. You can ask a judge to declare you the child’s legal father if you and the mother do not agree that the child is yours.

Acknowledgment of Paternity

An AOP is a free form you can get at the hospital where your child was born, at an AOP-certified agency such as a vital statistics office or the Office of the Attorney General, or by calling the AOP Hotline at 866-255-2006. Once both you and your child’s mother sign the form and submit it to an AOP-certified agency, you become your child’s legal father, and your name can be put on his or her birth certificate.

Agreed paternity order

With an agreed paternity order, you and your child’s mother must not only agree that you are the child’s father, but also agree about custody, visitation and child and medical support for your child. Many couples hire an attorney to help them draft this agreement, while many others work with the Child Support Division. Once you submit the signed agreement to a judge, he or she will approve it, thereby establishing your paternity.

Court-ordered paternity

The most difficult way to establish your paternity is when you and your child’s mother do not agree that you are the father. In this situation, you yourself must apply to the court for an Order of Paternity, using the services of a private attorney or by working through the Child Support Division. You likely will be required to take a court-approved paternity test. Over-the-counter paternity test results are not admissible in court. If you are working through the Child Support Division, you will not have to pay for your paternity test.

This is general information only and should not be taken as legal advice. Nevertheless, it can help you understand the various processes and what to expect.

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