In Texas, paternity tests are a crucial part of the custody battle between parents. You should be aware of whether you are legally required to take a paternity test to establish paternity to a child. It’s important to know what is and is not required of you in these situations, and whether or not you should take a test to determine paternity.
As an attorney who practices family law exclusively, I can help guide you through the questions you have about legally establishing parentage and deciding whether to move forward with a paternity action.
When Should You Take a Paternity Test?
If a baby is born to unwed parents, the child does not legally have a father unless paternity is established. This is the case even if the couple is together and happy.
Should the couple split, however, it can start to get sticky. The mother would automatically have a superior right to custody of the child in this situation. If the father wants to gain custody, a Texas court will only allow the alleged father to be a part of a custody dispute if his paternity is established. This can happen one of two ways.
1. The parents can sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form. This is a legal document signed under oath by both the mother and the father that declares that the man in question is the biological father of the child, and therefore should have custody rights.
When an AOP is signed, no paternity test is required. However, it is recommended to ensure that you are the father of the child prior to establishing a legal duty to support the child.
2. If an AOP was not completed or either party refuses to sign the AOP, the only way the man can establish paternity is to take a test. If the test comes back positive, then the man is allowed to move forward with his custody case. Once paternity is established, then the next step is to determine things such as custody rights, child support, and visitation schedules.
Special Situation Where a Paternity Test May Be Required
If a baby is born to married parents of the opposite sex, there is a legal presumption that the husband is the father of the child (the “presumed” father). In this case, no paternity test is needed.
However, a test will be required if a man outside of the marriage (an “alleged” father) claims to be the father and is contesting the paternity of the husband. In this case, a paternity test will be ordered by the court to determine which man is the actual father.
Timing of Taking a Paternity Test
Men often want to know whether they should go ahead and take a paternity test now, or wait until ordered to by a judge. While every situation varies, in most cases it’s better to go ahead and take the test rather than waiting.
Waiting on a court order can take time. In the meantime, you’re missing out on visits with your child and you’re giving others the chance to mount their own challenges. Furthermore, a child support obligation will more than likely be established and there is the risk that a retroactive child support judgment could be ordered. Establishing paternity as soon as possible minimizes that risk and helps accelerate these timelines in your favor.
Find Help from Blair Parker with a Paternity Case
If you are considering taking a legal paternity test to prove your fatherhood, are wanting to establish paternity for your child in order to obtain orders regarding visitation and child support, or you have more questions about paternity in Texas, it’s imperative you contact me today.
I help people just like you in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County walk through difficult matters related to establishing parentage while protecting your legal rights.
Call my offices at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to discuss the specific details of your case. I can help you decide the best course of action to establish paternity and provide legal support for related matters.