Unmarried Texas fathers who wish to have legal rights to their children must establish paternity before seeking custody or visitation rights. Similarly, unmarried mothers who wish to secure child support from the fathers of their children must have paternity established to collect that support.
Regardless of whether the mother or father wants to determine paternity, there are certain steps parents or presumptive parents must take to do so.
Establishing paternity through an Acknowledgement of Paternity
When both parents agree about who fathered a child, they may establish paternity with relative ease by signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity. They must work with an AOP-certified entity to do so. Minor parents also have the right to sign AOPs without the consent of one of their own parents.
Establishing paternity through the courts
When there is a disagreement between two parties about who fathered a child, a court-ordered paternity test may become necessary. In this situation, the Office of the Texas Attorney General may step in and file a petition requiring the presumptive father to take a paternity test. This involves having the believed father and the child in question have their cheeks swabbed for DNA. The DNA tests then determine whether the presumptive father did, in fact, father the child. Results from the swab typically become available within four-to-six weeks.
Keep in mind that an unmarried father has no legal rights whatsoever to a child until proven to be the father. Once this takes place, the father may pursue the same rights the child’s mother has.