Paternity FAQ

If an unmarried father is already paying support, is it necessary to establish paternity?
Yes. Even though the child's father is providing support, he may change his mind, become disabled, or even die. In most cases, unmarried parents can ensure certain benefits for their children only if paternity has been established.

Children who are supported by only one parent often do not have enough money for even basic needs. Every child is entitled to financial support and other resources from both parents.

The custodial parent, the child, and the child's doctor need to know whether the child has inherited any diseases or disorders, many of which may not be detected at birth or in childhood. Doctors can better treat a child if they know the full medical history of the family.

If paternity has been established, a child has a legal father and will have the possible right of inheritance from both parents. The child may also be eligible for other benefits such as Social Security, medical insurance, life insurance and veteran's benefits.

How does paternity establishment affect custody and visitation?
Each parent has the duty to financially and emotionally support his or her child. Each parent is presumed to possess the right to custody or visitation. If the parents cannot agree, custody, child support, and visitation will be decided by a court. Both parties must obey the court order. In other words, one parent cannot refuse to pay support because the other parent is refusing visitation and vice versa.

How is paternity established?
Paternity may be voluntarily established by agreement of both the mother and the father of the child. The parents can sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP), which becomes a legal finding of paternity when it is filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics. If the mother or alleged father is not sure about the paternity of the child, neither should sign an AOP. Paternity should be established through the courts.

What happens if the father signs the Acknowledgment of Paternity?
A law that became effective on September 1, 1999, states that if the father and mother have signed the AOP, the biological father becomes the legal father. This makes the father legally responsible for paying child support if he lives apart from the child and enables the court to grant him visitation or custody. In order to obtain child support and visitation rights that are enforceable, a parent must go to either a child support office or a private attorney.

Where can we get an Acknowledgment of Paternity form?
Parents should be able to get the AOP form at the hospital. Parents can also call the Bureau of Vital Statistics at (512) 458-7393 or the Office of Attorney General Paternity Opportunity Program at (210) 804-6484 to obtain a form. In addition, AOP forms are available at the local child support office or the local birth registrar.

What if the father wants to sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity but cannot come to the hospital?
Sometimes parents are not able to do everything necessary to acknowledge paternity while the mother and baby are still at the hospital. If this happens, the parents may sign the AOP before the baby is born or sign it later at a certified entity like a child support office or local office of vital statistics.

When the AOP is complete, it should be mailed to:

Bureau of Vital Statistics
1100 W. 49th Street
Austin, TX 78756-3191
If the AOP is mailed after BVS has received the birth certificate from the hospital, BVS will charge a fee to add the father's name to the birth certificate.

What if the mother is married to someone other than the biological father?
Even if the biological father signs the AOP, he will not be named on the birth certificate or be the legal father unless the mother's husband signs a Denial of Paternity. If the husband does not sign the Denial of Paternity, the biological parents must either visit a child support office or go to a private attorney to file a paternity legal action.

What if the mother is not sure who the father is?
If the mother applies for services or is referred to the Child Support Division to establish paternity, she will be asked questions about men who may have fathered the child. It is very important for the mother to provide as much information as she can to help determine the father's identity.

Paternity may be established even if the father is still in school or if he lives in another state.

What if the pregnancy was unplanned?
Texas law says that both parents are responsible for supporting their children. Just as the mother is responsible for the child even if the pregnancy was not planned, so is the father. This means that once the court determines the identity of the biological father, the man must help support his child.

What if the father does not believe it is his child?
He may ask for scientific paternity testing. A court will examine the results of the paternity test and then decide whether the alleged father is the biological father.

Who pays for the paternity test?
If the Child Support Division files the case, the Office of the Attorney General will pay for the test. If the alleged father is found to be the biological father of the child, he may be ordered to repay the cost of the test.

What if the father or mother changes his or her mind and no longer wants to acknowledge paternity after filing an AOP?
Either parent has 60 days from the time the AOP is filed at the Bureau of Vital statistics to rescind the acknowledgment and remove the father's name from the birth certificate. One of the parents must file a Petition to Rescind with the court. Even after 60 days, one of the parents may file a motion to challenge the AOP, but will be required to prove fraud, duress, or mistake of fact. Any such suit must be filed within four years of the AOP being filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics.

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