These days, it’s becoming more common for children to be born to unmarried parents, especially since it’s become so socially acceptable in our society. However, with the explosion of children being born out of wedlock, it has raised questions about a father’s rights to his child when he is not married to the child’s mother.
When a married woman has a child, the law automatically assumes her husband is the child’s father, even when her husband is not the child’s biological father. But when a child is born to unmarried parents, the law does not recognize that the child has a legal father until paternity is established. What does this mean? It means the courts cannot issue orders for child custody or child support until paternity is officially established.
So, what rights does an unwed father have? Until paternity is established, he has none. That means if an unwed father wants to see his child, he is at the mother’s mercy. And if the mother wants child support, the court cannot order it until paternity is confirmed.
How Do I Establish Paternity?
In Texas, there are two ways to establish paternity: by voluntarily acknowledging paternity and through a court-ordered paternity test. If the parents are certain about paternity and there is no question about who the father is, the biological parents can voluntarily acknowledge paternity by signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form.
However, whenever the mother and father don’t agree on paternity or when there is any question about paternity, either party can file a petition for a DNA test. Paternity tests are very simple. After the child is born, the presumed father and child have the inside of their cheeks swabbed at a local clinic or in court.
DNA tests are 99% accurate so if there is any question about paternity, a court-ordered paternity test will resolve the issue for good. “If a paternity test is done, how long until we get the results back?” Usually, results come back about 4-6 weeks after the swabs are done. If paternity is confirmed, then the courts can make orders for child custody and support.
Need legal assistance with a paternity or child custody issue? Contact The Law Office of Gregory C. Goline, PLLC to get started.