Establishing parentage in Texas is an essential step in protecting your parental rights.
Traditionally, state law names this process “paternity,” but same-sex couples may also seek to establish parentage under the law.
Reasons to establish parentage
Not only does parentage ensure that you have a right to custody and visitation in the case of a divorce, it also helps guarantee your child’s right to any of your military benefits, Social Security, inheritance and relevant privileges.
If you are a married couple with children together, the law may already assume that both of you are parents. But if you have any complicating factors, seeking legal parentage can garner you the same rights as traditional, biological, married parents.
Methods to establish parentage
There are several methods to establish parentage: adoption, filing an Acknowledgment of Paternity or obtaining a court order.
A traditional adoption will give an adoptive parent all of the same legal rights as a traditional or biological parent. Adoption can allow you to get your name on the child’s birth certificate and is typically the surest method to establishing parentage.
You may also seek an Acknowledgment of Paternity if you are a biological or intentional parent but have not married the other parent. Generally, parents must seek assistance from an AOP-certified entity to establish parentage this way.
Complicating factors may require additional steps but will not necessarily prevent an AOP. For example, a parent who has married another (nonparental) party will need to file a form denying the spouse’s parentage before seeking an AOP. Under certain circumstances, parties may challenge the AOP in court and necessitate additional measures to prove or establish parentage.
Sometimes, a court may order a parent to take a DNA test to establish biological parentage. A judge may order this if one parent disputes your parentage or whenever there is any question of a biological relationship. If you pass a test, a court will give you an order establishing your parentage.
Any of these methods can help assure your rights as a parent and may be a deciding factor in a custody dispute.