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Paternity Rights Under Texas Family Law

Ryan R. Bauerle | June 21, 2022

Paternity by acknowledgment occurs when the parents sign a document (typically at the hospital when the baby is born) called an Acknowledgement of Paternity affirming who is the biological father. This document is then sent to the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Austin.

Paternity by Court Order is the legal avenue when either the father or mother files a paternity action with the Court, during which the parent-child relationship between the child and father is formally established. The Court generally, if requested, orders genetic testing to confirm paternity if there is a question about who the biological father is.

When a child is born to married parents, Texas law presumes that the mother and father are both the biological and legal parents of the child.  Absent an action challenging this presumption, paternity is established.

Adoption establishes the parent-child relationship as if the child had been born to that father.

What rights do fathers have in Texas?

Fathers, like mothers, typically have certain legal rights in Texas (assuming paternity is established).

These include the right to possession, the right to make consent to medical care in certain situations, the right to direct moral and religious training, the right to receive and confer with the other parent regarding the child’s health, education, and welfare, the right to consult with the child’s educators and medical professionals, and the right to access school and medical records.

Do biological fathers have rights in Texas if they are not listed on the birth certificate?

If the father is not married to the mother – then no.  In fact, an unwed father will not even be able to sign the birth certificate until after he signs an Acknowledgement of Paternity because the parent-child relationship is not yet legally established.

In that scenario, they have no legal rights to conservatorship, possession, or access, nor can they be required to pay support.

To ascertain legal rights, the father must actively establish paternity to be deemed the legal father as described above.

What rights do unmarried fathers have in Texas?

Unmarried father’s rights in Texas depend entirely on whether or not they have established their paternity.

If the father’s paternity is established – they have the rights listed above.  Conversely, if they have not had their paternity legally recognized, they have legal no rights to the child.  In that scenario, the father should initiate steps to legally create the parent-child relationship.

How do you contest paternity in Texas?

Paternity can be contested in a variety of ways, and the proper avenue largely depends on the timeframe.  Generally speaking, best practices are to take action as soon as possible.

An Acknowledgement of Paternity can be rescinded within 60 days of execution, OR the date a paternity lawsuit is initiated, whichever occurs first.   However, Acknowledgement of Paternity may still be rescinded after that this deadline upon a showing of fraud, duress, or mistake.

If paternity is already established, the party contesting paternity should seek genetic testing and a petition with the Court asking to terminate the existing parent-child relationship.

In the case of a presumed father (such as in a marriage), they should sign a denial of paternity if seeking to contest at the outset.  This occurs in cases where the mother had an affair during the marriage, and her husband is not the biological father.

A presumed father seeking to contest paternity must file suit before the child’s 4TH birthday.  However, an exception to this rule applies as well.  Such a case can be filed at any time if the Court determines that (1) the presumed father and the mother of the child did not live together or engage in sexual intercourse with each other during the probable time of conception;  or (2) the presumed father was precluded from commencing a proceeding to adjudicate the parentage of the child before the deadline because of the mistaken belief that he was the child’s biological father based on misrepresentations that led him to that conclusion.

Learn More

Ryan is a skilled litigator and strong negotiator; he regularly obtains favorable settlements without ever stepping foot in the courthouse. Ryan works with clients to evaluate the pros and cons of their options, including costs, to make sound and efficient decisions about moving forward. Ryan is Board-certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Family Law. He has also been recognized as a Super Lawyers Rising Star, 2020-2022, and named a Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch, 2020.

To learn more about what establishes paternity in Texas, please contact Ryan Bauerle at 214-473-9696 to schedule a consultation.

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