If you are a Texas man whose child was born when you were not married to his or her mother, you and your child do not have the same legal rights as children born to married parents. The Office of the Texas Attorney General explains that a child born in Texas to unmarried parents does not legally have a father. While you may be the biological father, you have no legal right to your child unless and until you establish paternity.
You can establish paternity in Texas by one of the following three ways:
- Acknowledgment of Paternity signed by you and your child’s mother
- Agreed paternity order signed by you, your child’s mother and a judge
- Court-ordered paternity order signed by a judge
An Acknowledgment of Paternity is a legal document that you and your child’s mother can obtain for free from an AOP-certified entity such as the hospital where your child is born, a vital statistics office, or the Office of the Attorney General. You and your child’s mother can sign this document, which establishes you as your child’s father, any time before or after your child is born.
An agreed paternity order is a legal document that not only establishes you as your child’s father, but also sets forth the agreements between you and your child’s mother regarding your child’s custody and medical and child support. After signing this document, you both submit it to a court to be signed by a judge.
If you and your child’s mother do not agree that you are the child’s father, you can petition a court to make that determination. You will need to have a paternity test proving that your DNA establishes you as your child’s father. An over-the-counter test is not sufficient and cannot be used as court evidence. You may be able to receive a free DNA test through the child support services division of the Office of the Attorney General. While this information should not be taken as legal advice, it can help you understand the process and what to expect.