When a child is born in Texas, unless the parents are married, it is assumed that the child has no legal father until paternity is acknowledged. This can be as simple as signing a form at the hospital when the baby is born; however, it is not always as easy as it may seem. If the father is not known or refuses to acknowledge the baby as his, it is the suggestion of a family law or divorce attorney that a paternity action may be necessary.

Acknowledging Paternity

A baby born to parents who are not married is considered to have no legal father. A biological father can sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) at the hospital, although this does not always happen. If a father refuses to sign the AOP, an attorney who handles family or divorce cases recommends that the woman initiate a child support case to enforce the father’s acknowledgment of paternity. In this way, the mother can receive child support and other legal benefits as once the father signs the AOP, he is legally responsible for the child.

Questionable Paternity – and Disagreement

A family law or divorce attorney knows that many times fathers refuse to sign an AOP to avoid legal responsibility for a child, especially if they feel they are not the child’s parent. Interestingly, fathers are not the only ones who avoid signing an AOP. If a mother refuses to sign the AOP when the biological father wishes to acknowledge his child, he can also open a legal case for paternity. If there is question as to whether or not a man is actually the child’s parent, then a paternity test will be ordered by the court. Depending on the results, the couple must sign the papers together if the man is found to be the biological father.

Filing a Paternity Court Action

To resolve paternity situations when one parent does not wish to sign an AOP or fatherhood is questioned, the courts have the right to demand that each parent acknowledge the baby together. A DNA blood test can be required to verify paternity. Once paternity has been established, the courts can also order child support, custody, and visitation plans through each party’s lawyer, depending on the relationship between the parents.

Paternity actions are critical to assign responsibility for raising the child. It is a protective measure for the baby, especially if the father and mother are not together. It forms a basis for the well being and security of the child both for current issues and future needs.

The important thing to understand is that no matter what a mother’s relationship may be with the baby’s biological father, it is imperative that he complete an Acknowledgment of Paternity form. It is in the best interest of every child to have two legal parents. If the father refuses to cooperate in order to avoid child support and legal responsibility, it may require the services of a family law or divorce attorney who is familiar with cases involving absent or disputed paternity. Such action would certainly be in the best interests of the child.

Reynaldo G. Garza, III
680 E. St Charles, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520
(956) 202-0067

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