The term “paternity” refers to a child’s legal father. When paternity is legally established, it typically involves orders for child custody, visitation, and child support can be made. It can also mean that a child can receive medical support, Social Security benefits, health insurance, an inheritance, etc. from his or her legal father.
When a child is born to married parents, Texas law automatically assumes that the woman’s husband is the child’s biological and legal father. But when a child is born to unmarried parents, the child does not have a legal father until paternity is established. Until paternity is established, the courts have no authority to issue child custody or support orders.
How Does Texas Establish Paternity?
When there is no question about paternity and the mother and father agree, they can both sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form. When this form is signed by the parents and filed with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit (VSU), a legal relationship between the father and child is established and the father can invoke his parental rights. At the same time, the mother can seek a child support order.
“What if one of the parents questions paternity?” If the mother or father questions who the child’s biological father is, either parent can ask a court to perform a DNA test as part of an ongoing court matter.
If the DNA test confirms the man is the child’s biological father, and the birth certificate does not have the father’s name on it, the mother or father can contact the VSU to have his name added to the child’s birth certificate. The parent will have to complete form VS-166, Application for New Birth Certificate Based on Parentage.
If a mother or father has any doubt about the child’s biological father, they are strongly advised by the family courts not to sign an AOP. Instead, they should get a DNA test and have paternity confirmed before they sign an AOP, which will officially establish the legal relationship between the father and child.