Unmarried couples who have a child together may have different reasons for wanting to legally establish paternity, which is the process by which the child’s biological father becomes the “legal” parent of the child and has all of the right and responsibilities Texas law provides or imposes on fathers.
For example, the child’s mother may want to establish paternity so that she can get a court order for the father to pay child support, provide health insurance or otherwise take financial responsibility for the child. Paternity also entitles to the child to inherit from the father even when the father does not leave a will and gives the child access to survivors’ and other benefits. The child’s father, on the other hand, will need a paternity order if he wants to seek custody or court-ordered visitation rights.
The simplest way for two unmarried parents to establish paternity is by signing what is called an Acknowledgment of Paternity. As long as it is filled out properly and filed correctly, the form operates as a legally binding paternity determination. The good side of this is that it allows a couple to get paternity established quickly and easily, as it is a process that can be done without a lot of legal assistance.
On the other hand, signing an Acknowledgement is not ideal in situations where there is uncertainty about who the father is or the mother and father were in an abusive relationship. After all, a signed Acknowledgement makes the father legally responsible for the child and opens the door to custody and visitation rights. In difficult cases or cases where there is likely to be a child custody dispute, it is often best to get family law legal assistance with getting a court order establishing paternity and laying out the specific rights and responsibilities of each parent.