How is paternity (legal fatherhood) established?
There are several ways to establish paternity (legal fatherhood) in Texas. Paternity is presumed (assumed) when a man is:
- married to the mother of the child and the child is born during the marriage or born before the 301st day after the date the marriage ended (Note: 301 days accounts for the length of a typical pregnancy);
- married (but not a valid marriage) to the mother of the child before the birth of the child and the child is born during the invalid marriage or before the 301st day after the marriage ended;
- married to the mother of the child after the birth of the child and voluntarily acknowledged paternity, and:
- the acknowledgment is in a record filed with the bureau of vital statistics;
- he voluntarily named himself the child’s father on the child’s birth certificate; or
- he promised in a record to support the child as his own; or
- lived with the child in the same household for the first two years of the child’s life and he presented himself as the father to other people.*
If the parents are not married, they can sign an acknowledgment of paternity (AOP) if both parents agree to this.** There is no filing fee to file the AOP.*** You can get an AOP form at a hospital, the local registrar, the Child Support Office or at the Vital Statistics Unit. For more information, see the website of the Texas Attorney General. Note: Signing an AOP generally means that the father has full rights and responsibilities as a parent, equal to the mother's, unless a court order limits his rights.
Another way to establish paternity is when a parent files a paternity proceeding in court and the judge orders a genetic test to prove legal fatherhood.****
* Tex. Fam. Code § 160.204(a)
** Tex. Fam. Code § 160.301
*** Tex. Fam. Code § 160.306
**** Tex. Fam. Code § 160.502