The legal process of establishing the identity and parental rights of a child’s (or children’s) father is known as paternity. Although most fathers are granted paternity rights at birth, there are instances where parental rights are not established until the father or another qualified party petitions it with the appropriate court. This is especially true for unmarried parents who are required file acknowledgements of paternity after their child’s birth or fathers who are involuntarily establishing paternity through adjudicatory measures.
If the child’s paternity is never established, the father will not be granted parental rights and cannot legally make critical decisions for the child’s health, safety, religion, schooling, etc. Without proof of paternity, the custodial guardian of the child (whether that’s their biological mother or a different party) can even deny the father the ability to visit or see the child. In some cases, individuals will petition the court for a paternity test in order to disprove their hereditary link to the child. This is often executed when the mother of the child requests child support for the child’s best interests.
Houston Paternity Lawyer
If you’re petitioning for paternity or the court has summoned you to determine the paternity of a child, contact Horak Law. Family law attorney Matthew Horak and his team at Horak Law have spent over a decade practicing law and can take on your case with ease. Both Attorney Horak and his team can assist with filing and guide you through the legal process so you’re fully prepared and know your legal rights once you step foot in that court room.
Paternity can be a sensitive topic for some families, so opening a legal case may feel daunting. Don’t let the courts intimidate you. Call Horak Law to get answers to your burning questions and obtain valuable advice on what the next best steps are for your paternity case. Schedule your first consultation today at (713) 225-8000 or simply submit an online contact form.
Horak Law has offices in both Houston and The Woodlands, TX. However, we accept clients throughout the State including Brazoria County, Galveston County, Harris County, Waller County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, and Fort Bend County.
Voluntary Establishment of Paternity in Texas
The State of Texas does allow interested fathers to establish a father-child relationship voluntarily. According to Texas’s laws, the mother-child relationship is automatically established if they meet the following criteria:
- The woman gave birth to the child
- An adjudication of the woman’s parental rights; or
- The child was adopted by the mother
Fathers must overcome additional obstacles if they wish to establish parental rights over the child. The State of Texas utilizes various procedures to prove paternity, especially if who is considered to be the father is unclear. These procedures are as follows:
- The father signed an effective acknowledgement of paternity (AOP) under Subchapter D of the Texas Family Code
- Presumption of the man’s paternity of the child under Family Code Section 160.204
- An adjudication of the man’s paternity by the appropriate court
- The child was adopted by the individual or the individual consented to assisted reproduction by their partner, which then lead to the birth of the child
The State of Texas may make a presumption of who the father is based on various criteria. Under the Texas Family Code Section 160.204, a person is assumed to be the father of a child (or children) if they fit the following:
- The individual is married to the mother of the child, and the child was born during that marriage
- The individual is married to the mother and the child was born before the 301st day after the marriage was terminated by annulment, divorce, death, or declaration of invalidity
- Married the mother of the child before the birth of the child and the child was born into an invalid marriage or before the 301st day after the date of marriage was terminated by annulment, divorce, declaration of invalidity, or death
- Married the mother of the child and voluntarily asserted their paternity of the child and that assertion is filed with the vital statistics unit, the individual is listed as the father on the birth certificate, or they promised in a record to solely support the child
- The child continuously resided within the household of the individual for two years and they represented to others they were the father of the child.
If parents sign an acknowledgement of paternity with the intent to establish parental rights, it serves as an equivalent of an adjudication of the child’s paternity. In order for the AOP to be valid, the individual must satisfy several requirements under the Texas Family Code Section 160.302. The form is then filed with the vital statistics unit and will automatically grant the individual seeking paternity of the child parental rights.
Involuntary Paternity in Texas
The courts don’t only grant parental rights to those who voluntarily establish paternity. A person can also petition the courts for involuntary establishment of paternity for fathers who deny the child’s heritage. In these cases, genetic testing may be requested to determine parentage. According to the Texas Family Code Section 160.102(8), genetic testing in the context of paternity is defined as:
“…An analysis of an individual’s genetic markers to exclude or identify a man as the father of a child or a woman as the mother of a child,”
The test may include one of the following: red-cell antigens, human-leukocyte antigens, red-cell enzymes, serum proteins, serum enzymes, and/or deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The court can order both the proposed father and other designated individuals to comply with testing.
Under Texas laws, a person is identified as the father of a child if the genetic testing reveals the following information:
- The man has at least 99 percent probability of paternity and the test used a prior probability of 0.5 as calculated by using the combined paternity index obtained in testing; and
- Has a combined paternity index that is at a minimum 100 to 1
If the suspected father presents contrasting genetic results, then they may be able to rebuff the genetic testing results. In this scenario, the court would require both men to undergo genetic testing so they can accurately identify the father.
Establishing Paternity | Texas Attorney General —Visit the official website for the Texas Attorney General to learn more about their section about paternity establishment. The website discusses ways to establish paternity in Texas. You can also view videos of personal testimonials from parents discussing the Acknowledgment of Paternity process.
National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse– Visit the official website for the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, which is a governmental page that offers guidance to unmarried fathers who are dealing with paternity issues inside the United States.
Paternity Lawyer, Houston TX | Harris County
Have you been trying to establish paternity, or have you been asked to submit to genetic testing? If so, contact Horak Law. Matthew Horak can assist you throughout every phase of the legal process, provide valuable advice, and act as your guide to an achievable satisfying outcome. To learn more about his practice and your legal options, call our office at (713) 225-8000 today.