How do I begin to establish my paternity rights in Texas?
Unmarried fathers have rights and duties similar to those of married fathers. Couples who are living together but are not married should take steps to ensure that both are recognized as the legal parents. Both parents can be listed on the birth certificate. A parent who is not listed may be able to be added after the birth of a child if the parent contacts the state Bureau of Vital Statistics in which the birth took place. The father will be shown on the birth certificate if he acknowledges paternity when or close in time to the birth, or the court orders the birth certificate to be changed to reflect the father’s name. A father can acknowledge paternity by signing a written admission or voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or paternity may be established by filing a civil lawsuit. Generally, paternity must be established for the father to seek custody and/or visitation rights with his child. Paternity refers to the legal acknowledgment of the parental relationship between a father and his child.
Parents are legally obligated to provide their children with all the necessities of life. The failure of parents to marry does not affect their responsibility to support their children. If parents are unmarried and cannot agree upon how much each should contribute toward the support of their children, the courts may decide. A court can order one parent to make specified payments to the other for child support. State laws provide that biological parents make all the decisions involving their children, including education, health care, and religious upbringing. Parents are not required to secure the legal right to make these decisions if they are married and are listed on the child's birth certificate. However, if there is disagreement about who has the right to make these decisions courts can decide.
In most states, a paternity action takes the form of a civil lawsuit. Only certain persons or parties have legal standing to bring a paternity action, including the mother of the child; the mother of an expected child; a man alleging that he is the biological father of a child; a man alleging that he is the biological father of an expected child; the child; a personal representative of the child; the mother and father of a child (a voluntary action filed together); the mother and father of an expected child (a voluntary action filed together); a state social service agency, interceding in cases of child neglect or need; and a prosecutor's office, interceding in cases of child neglect or need. An action for paternity may be filed by the child. In many states, after a child reaches the "age of majority," he has another one to five years to seek the establishment of paternity. Upon the order of a court in North Carolina, if an action to determine parentage is filed and it is determined that a certain individual is the father of the minor child(ren) and that determination contradicts the child's birth certificate, a new birth certificate will be issued reflecting the father as established in the court order.
A court will not automatically order paternity tests simply because a paternity action has been filed. It will review the petition to determine if there is sufficient information contained therein to warrant or justify the compelling of such a test. If the court orders a paternity test, the mother, child, and alleged father will all be tested at a court-designated facility. A court determination of paternity is final, and a copy of the court's order will be needed to establish the child's rights, both present and future.