Houston Paternity Rights Lawyer
Unmarried Parents & Paternity Suits in Houston, Sugar Land, and Galveston
When couples are married when a child is born, the husband is the presumed father of the child. This is not the case with children born to unmarried parents. A child born to unmarried parents in Texas does not have a legal father until paternity is established. However, the mother and father may sign an “acknowledgement of paternity” (AOP) with the intent to establish paternity.
The execution of paternity is not something to be taken lightly and once signed, it leads to the establishment of parent-child relationship between the father and the child. When paternity cannot be voluntarily established, legal action may become necessary.
Learn more about our paternity and family law services. Call (713) 909-7323 for an initial consultation.
How Paternity Is Established
Paternity can be established in Texas in one of the following ways:
- Presumed when parents are married when the child is born;
- Through both parties voluntarily signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity form; or
- Through court proceedings called “petition to adjudicate parentage” and the issuance of an order adjudicating parentage.
Suit to adjudicate parentage usually involves a party that disputes the designation of a paternity. A father who may be the father of the child is called “alleged father”. This may involve a man who disputes their legal relationship and obligations to a child or wishes to assert their rights as a father, or a mother who claims or disputes a man’s status as legal father. Petitions to adjudicate parentage may also be filed by the child or the state if a child receives public assistance.
When a petition is filed, there are several ways it can be resolved:
- When a father fails to appear in court after receiving proper notice of proceedings, a judge may enter a default order declaring him a legal father.
- If a father appears and agrees he is the father, a court will enter an order adjudicating parentage.
- If a mother or alleged father disputes paternity, or is uncertain of paternity, the court may order genetic testing. Failure to take a court-ordered DNA test leads to contempt of court. If DNA tests confirm a biological father, the court issues an order adjudicating parentage, which establishes a legal father, adds their name to the child’s birth certificate, and leads to orders over child custody, support, and visitation.
Paternity Tests & Definitive Answers
Establishing paternity is important to securing legal benefits and parental rights, as well as providing emotional benefits to a child.
Both men and women can benefit from the results of a paternity test:
- For Men – DNA test can affirm whether a child is yours and an order adjudicating your paternity will secure your rightful relationship with your child. Biological fathers who are legally recognized as noncustodial parents can be entitled to visitation, input on important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing (such as education), and the ability to request information on the child's well-being (report cards, medical documents, etc.).
- For Women – For a mother, paternity must be lawfully established before financial support can be legally obtained. The establishment of paternity can also help determine whether there are any genetic medical conditions that the mother and her child should be aware of on the father’s side.
Can I change my child’s last name from the father’s surname to mine?
You can request the Court to legally change the child’s last name. Just like any other litigation, you must serve the other parent with a request for change of name. You can also include a request to change the child’s last name as part of the suit affecting the parent-child relationship.
Request a Consultation with Our Houston Family Lawyers
Regardless of the complexity or nature of your case, Hendershot, Cannon & Hisey, P.C. has the experience and resources to find answers and the most positive resolution possible. Our family law team proudly serves clients throughout Houston, Sugar Land, and Galveston, and has technological resources to communicate with you effectively even if you are stationed in the military or work outside of Texas. Using Skype video conferencing capabilities, email, and other methods, we frequently assist active-duty service members with paternity proceedings and other pivotal matters.
Call (713) 909-7323 today, or contact our firm using a short online form. We look forward to speaking with you during a confidential consultation.