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What is paternity?
When a child is born during a marriage, the husband is presumed to be that child’s biological father. A child born out of wedlock has no “legal” father in the eyes of the law. In a situation where a mother and father are not married and do not anticipate getting married, a Texas court must set out the father’s legal rights and obligations. This is referred to as establishing paternity.
How is paternity established in Texas?
Paternity is established in several ways in Texas. Under the Parentage Chapter of Texas Family Code, a father may establish paternity by signing the birth certificate and acknowledgment of paternity (AOP) in the hospital when a child is born. Paternity may also be established by a court ordered genetic test identifying a man as the father. Texas law allows a man to admit his is the biological father of a child in open court in order to establish paternity. Although Texas law says these methods of establishing paternity are proper, many courts are requiring all fathers and children to submit to a genetic test ordered by the court in an effort to avoid future litigation.
What rights does a father have in Texas once paternity has been established?
Once paternity is established, a father has the right to establish possession and access or visitation with his children. This visitation, as established by the Texas Family Code, is usually the first, third, and fifth weekend of the month along with alternate holidays and extended time in the summer. This is known as a Standard Possession Order. If parties cannot agree on a visitation schedule, the court will determine a schedule that is in the best interest of the child. Along with visitation, fathers are generally given the right to make medical and educational decisions regarding their child or children. Along with father’s rights come father’s obligations.
What are the father’s obligations in Texas once paternity has been established?
Once a father’s paternity is established, he is responsible for supporting the child by paying child support and medical support. If the parties cannot agree on a child support amount, the court will establish an amount as set out by Texas law. Remember, both mother and father are obligated to support and care for their children. It is not always a guarantee that the mother will be given primary custody of the child. It is always better for parents to come up with a “parenting plan” as opposed to allowing a judge to dictate how a child will be raised and when their parents will see them.
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