Paternity is the legal process of establishing the identity of the child’s father. In today’s day and age paternity can be more complicated, because it’s no longer assumed entirely by marriage. There are a lot of single parents out there who may not be cohabitating with their child’s father and establishing paternity can be more difficult in those circumstances. When dealing with a compelling paternity issue, you should contact an attorney who deals with paternity for help.

Attorney for Paternity in Brownsville, Texas

Opening a paternity case can get difficult, especially when the other person is not cooperating.  If you can’t agree on who the father of the child is, then you need to consult with an attorney to file a paternity case in order to establish who the father is and establish the father’s rights over the child.

The topic of paternity can be a very sensitive topic to discuss and sometimes even harder to open a legal case on.  However, at The Gracia Law Firm, P.C. , you can trust in our impartiality and privacy. Our experienced attorneys take the time to get to know your case and advise you on what to do next.

Call The Gracia Law Firm, P.C. for a free, confidential consultation. We are based in Brownsville, Texas and work with clients in Willacy, Hidalgo, and Cameron County.

Overview of Paternity

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Paternity Issues

Trying to establish the paternity of a child can get complicated when the mother and father of the child disagree on their parentage. One example includes the biological father of the child who negates he is the father of the child in order to avoid paying child support. Therefore, the mother of the child wants to pursue a paternity order against the father to establish him as the legal father and have him pay for child support. Other reasons why the child’s parentage negligence can come in handy includes the child’s rights to the father’s inheritance, social security or other benefits if available. Genetics can also play a part of the child’s health, so both the child and the mother have a right to know the biological father in case of medical reasons.

Similarly, the father may know the child is not his, and wants to be able to prove it in order to avoid paying for child support that’s not in his obligation. The father can also be on the opposite side of the spectrum wishing to establish his paternity in order to get those rights of a father and be able to see his child.

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Ways to Determine Paternity Outside of Adjudication

Texas Family Code Chapter 160 covers the Uniform Parentage Act which governs the laws determining the parentage of children.

  • Voluntary Acknowledgement

The most common way to establish the paternity of a child is for both parents to sign under perjury an acknowledgement of paternity (AOP) form at the birth of the child. The form is sent to the Texas Vital Statistics Office where the information is documented. An AOP form can be signed at any point with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit, however if during the birth of the child it is presumed the father is someone else, then that individual must first sign a denial of paternity (DOP) form in order for the real father to submit an APO form and be legally registered as the father of the child. Only after both AOP and DOP forms have been filed, can then the father’s name be changed on the birth certificate (Texas Family Code § 160.302).

  • Unrebutted Presumption through Marriage

When people are bonded through marriage, it is assumed that a child born out of the marriage is the child of both spouses. Other ways paternity is presumed through marriage include the following:

  • Child is born within 300 days of the father having terminated his marriage relationship with the mother of the child
  • Child is born, and the individual marries the mother of the child and voluntarily asserts himself as the father on a birth certificate or vital record
  • The individual resides in the same household as the child for the first two years of the child’s life and presents the child as his own

Until the presumed father is rejected as the real father through a DOP form and the child’s real father files an AOP form, the individual continues to be assumed as the father unless in the case of a court adjudication (Texas Family Code § 160.204).

  • Denial of Paternity (DOP) A denial of paternity is a legal document in which the supposed father is stated not to be the actual father of the child. The document can only become valid if another individual has claimed paternity over the child through an AOP form, releasing this individual from his rights and obligations as a father. Both an AOP form and a DOP form have to be filed simultaneously in order for one or the other to go into effect. Normally, both biological parents must sign this paper in order for it to be valid with the Texas Statistics Unit unless paternity has been decided through a court adjudication. An individual cannot sign a DOP firm if the court has adjudicated him as the father nor if previously, this individual voluntarily signed an acknowledgement of paternity (AOP) form, unless it’s tied in with a rescission or official challenge.
  • Rescission of Paternity A rescission of paternity is the process in which an individual previously acknowledged or denied as the father of the child through his own voluntary acknowledgement or denial of paternity, takes back his acknowledgement or denial. You have only 60 days from the date of the acknowledgment or denial of paternity or before a court order is filed to submit a rescission of paternity. If you miss the deadline to file regular proceedings of rescission of paternity, then you might have to challenge an acknowledgment or denial of paternity through court proceedings. Challenging a court adjudication of paternity is different from filing a rescission of paternity and will also have to go through the court process.

Additional ways in which an individual can claim to the father of a child are through an adoption or consent to his wife’s assisted reproduction resulting in the birth of the child. There are no state filing fees for any of the paternity forms listed above.

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Court Process for Paternity

A court adjudication to determine to the paternity of a child can only be done by a judge. Only the following parties have the right to solicit a court adjudication to determine the paternity of a child:

  • The child;
  • Mother of the child;
  • A man whose paternity is to be adjudicated;
  • A government agency;
  • A legal representative of the child;
  • Adoption agency or child-placing agency;
  • Second-degree relative of the mother of the child in case of the mother’s death (i.e, sharing 25% of the mother’s genes, uncle, aunt, niece, grandparent, half-siblings, etc.);
  • An adult whose father has not being identified before; or
  • Parent-to-be of the child.

A court adjudication is usually the last resort for parents to establish a child’s paternity. Usually, both the mother and the man to be adjudicated have to be present during the proceeding.

The time limits to file for an adjudication of paternity are usually restricted when there is already a presumed father. Individuals allowed to file adjudication of paternity have only until the fourth anniversary of the child’s date of birth to adjudicate paternity. Otherwise, the only exception to the time limits exist when the court finds reason to believe that the mother of the child and presumed father were not having sexual relations around the time of the conception of the child, or the presumed father was previously made to believe he was the father of the child leading the timeline for adjudication to expire. If the child has an adjudicated father or acknowledged father, then another party with interest in adjudication can petition for adjudication only until the fourth anniversary of the date of the acknowledgement or adjudication.

When the process of paternity has gone as far as court, then many times the help of DNA testing is necessary to determine parentage. Either the mother or presumed or alleging father of the child, or child support enforcement agency can petition for a DNA test, but the court will decide for itself if they want to order it or not, or the court may automatically order DNA testing to establish parentage. The court will follow proceedings in the best interests of the child. This is one of the most important steps in which a paternity lawyer is a key component of the case. If another individual, besides the court is requesting DNA testing, they must present a strong argument in favor of the DNA test to the court. The lawyer, in this case, can make sure either the mother or the alleging father or presumed father of the child’s rights are well-respected during the process.

DNA testing results can be rebuttable in some cases, including identical DNA results found within various individuals or falsification of DNA specimen, however a paternity order can be finalized by the court once they identify the genetic father of the child and adjudicate him as the father. Similarly, if DNA testing results do not confirm nor deny a parentage, then further evidence and DNA testing may be necessary to determine paternity of the child.   

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Additional Resources

Texas Attorney General | Paternity – Inside the Texas Attorney General page, you can find specific steps for paperwork involving establishing paternity in Texas. Within the site, you can find links giving you access to the specific form to complete for paternity.

National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse | Resources for Fathers  – The governmental page offers guidance to unmarried fathers who are dealing with paternity issues inside the United States. The website also includes resources for both unmarried and married fathers in order to provide the best support as a father.

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Attorney for Paternity in Cameron County, Texas

If you want to claim your rights as the father of the child, you must first identify yourself as the legal father of the child. In order to provide a strong argument in case, you should seek a legal counsel who can represent you.

At The Gracia Law Firm, P.C. , we are devoted to helping each of our clients get the most favorable outcomes out of their case. We know you might be fighting for your life in order to get rights to your child, and we are empathic in your fight to achieve those rights.

Call The Gracia Law Firm, P.C. for a free, confidential consultation. We are based in Brownsville, TX and work with clients in Willacy, Hidalgo, and Cameron County.