Two different areas of custody cases are handled regularly in the family legal system, the cases that involve parents who were married and divorced, and those who were never married.
The latter group are handled as what are known as paternity cases. Whenever an issue or dispute comes up involving a child between two unmarried partners, the parents will need to seek legal relief through a paternity case.
Why Paternity Is Important
When a child is born to a couple that is not married, the name of the birth mother is the only name that is automatically added to the birth certificate.
Parents can agree to have the father added, but the only time the father’s name is automatically added is when the parents are married. To be legally considered a parent to a child, one or both of the parents will need to file a case to establish paternity.
Many parents believe they never need to do this because they do not want to involve the courts. It could be that for a period of time they are getting along well enough that the mother is allowing the father regular time with the child, or the father is regularly contributing child support to support the mother.
However, say an argument occurs and suddenly the relationship is not so good. What recourse does either parent have? If paternity is not established, it may be difficult to enforce what was going on previously.
By legally establishing paternity, the father is ensuring that he is receiving all rights that are his to his child, thus protecting the father-child relationship.
Types Of Paternity Cases
Paternity cases can be filed for a variety of reasons. First, they are often filed to simply establish paternity rights and to establish that a certain person is the legal father of a child.
They can also be filed when a parent is wanting access or visitation with his or her child. If one parent is wanting to enforce child support, paternity matters can be filed, as well, or, as is often the case, the matter is a combination of all of the above.
How Paternity Is Established
Paternity is normally established in one of three different ways. The first is if a child is born to a married couple. Paternity is presumed due to marriage.
The second way is when the mother and father each voluntarily sign and file an Acknowledgement of Paternity with the Vital Statistics Unit. By doing this, they are swearing that the father who is named is the biological and legal father of the child.
If the parents wait too long and the Acknowledgement of Paternity is signed after the hospital already mailed out the birth certificate, a fee is required to change the baby’s name to include the father’s name.
Parents can obtain this Acknowledgement of Paternity form at the hospital, the local birth registrar, or at the Vital Statistics Unit.
The third method of establishing paternity is by filing a legal matter and getting a court order. This is known as the involuntarily establishment of paternity.
If a court order is needed it means normally one of the parties is disputing paternity. An involuntary paternity proceeding can be started by the child’s mother, father, the child, or the state if the child is receiving some type of public assistance.
The case begins by one of these parties filing a Petition to Adjudicate Parentage in the county court where the child lives. If the father does not appear after being properly served, the court will enter a default order and declare him the father.
If the father does appear and agrees that he is the father, the court will enter an order establishing paternity. Otherwise, the court will order a DNA test be conducted, which requires that the child, mother and father be swabbed.
If, after the testing is complete, the court determines that the named father is the biological father, an order will be issued. Along with the paternity order, the court can also enter orders regarding custody, access or visitation, and child support.
Contact Scott M. Brown & Associates Today
To discuss how to proceed in pursuing a paternity matter, please contact the family law attorneys of Scott M. Brown and Associates. You can reach us by calling 281-612-8241. We have offices in Angleton, Houston, and Pearland.