The legal information provided on this website is the product of
Legal Aid NorthWest Texas (LANWT). None of the legal information
on this website is associated with or the product of the Office
of the Attorney General of Texas or any of its employees.
can I be listed as the father on my baby’s birth certificate?
Under Texas law, if you were married to the mother of the child
when the child was born, your name will automatically appear on
the baby’s birth certificate as the father of the child.
If you were not married to the mother of the child,
there are two ways to have your name added to the birth
- By voluntarily signing an
Acknowledgment of Paternity form; or
- By a court order.
See the Handbook
for Non-Custodial Parents on the OAG website for more
What does paternity mean?
Both legally and biologically, the word paternity means the
identity of the father of a child. Except in rare circumstances,
when a woman gives birth to a child, she is considered the legal
mother of that child. Every child also has a biological father.
But if you were never married to the mother of your child, Texas
does not give you any rights or responsibilities as the child’s
father unless legal paternity is established.
A man is presumed to be the legal father of
a child if he was married to the mother at the time of the birth
of the child or the child is born before the 301st day after the
date the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration
of invalidity, or divorce. Unless paternity is established, a
child born to an unwed mother has no legal father.
How can the paternity of a child be established?
In Texas there are two primary ways to establish paternity for a
child. Both parents can sign a legal document to establish the
paternity of the child. This document is called an
Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP). The second way to establish
paternity is through a court proceeding.
The decision to voluntarily acknowledge
paternity should not be taken lightly because it is an important
one for both you and your child. If you are absolutely sure that
you are the father of the child, and the mother agrees, you
should both, voluntarily acknowledge paternity. Certain issues
cannot be handled in the acknowledgement proceedings or Child
Support Review Process (CSRP). For example, if you and the
mother are unable to reach an agreement about visitation with
the child or other rights such as the right to see your child’s
school or medical records, you will have to go to court.
What if the mother and I want to establish paternity as soon
as the baby is born?
In Texas, if the mother of the child is not married, paternity
can be established in the hospital at the time the baby is born
by both of you signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity form. The
AOP may also be signed before the child is born. If both parents
have signed an AOP, no court proceeding on the issue of
paternity is needed, and you can be held responsible for child
support. You will also have the right to seek a court order for
visitation or custody.
If I do not establish paternity in the hospital, can the
mother and I do it later without going to court?
Yes. You and your child’s mother can sign an Acknowledgment of
Paternity form at a later date. It must include the signatures
of both you and the mother.
If you sign the form after the hospital has
already mailed the birth certificate, you will be charged a fee
for changing the birth certificate to include your name as the
father of the child. A completed Acknowledgment of Paternity
form should be sent to the Vital Statistics Unit (VSU), 1100 W.
49th Street, Austin, TX, 78756-3191. The Vital Statistics Unit
will not charge a fee to file this form. Please go to
for more information.
After both parents have signed an AOP, no
court proceeding on the issue of paternity is needed, and you
can be held responsible for child support. You will also have
the right to seek a court order for visitation or custody.
Q. I am
under 18. If I sign an acknowledgement of paternity form, will
that make me the legal father of the child?
Yes. Under the Texas voluntary acknowledgment laws, there is no
difference in how the government treats an adult or minor who
signs an Acknowledgment of Paternity.
Q. I was
never married to the mother of my child, and I am an
undocumented immigrant. I want to be declared the legal father
of my child. What should I do?
Your status as an undocumented immigrant does not affect your
ability to be declared the legal father of a child born in this
To be declared the legal father of your
child, you and the mother of the child can sign an AOP form.
If you sign the form after your child is
born and the hospital has already mailed the birth certificate,
you will be charged a fee to change the birth certificate to
include your name as the father. A completed Acknowledgment of
Paternity should be sent to the Vital Statistics Unit, 1100 W.
49th Street, Austin, TX, 78756-3191. The Vital Statistics Unit
will not charge a fee to the file this form.
What if, after signing the acknowledgement of paternity, I
have reason to believe I am not the father?
If you sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity and you later decide
you may not be the father, there are ways for you to withdraw
your signing of the form. However, this is most easily done
within 60 days of signing. After 60 days pass, the requirements
for withdrawing your name are more difficult to meet.
If within, 60 days after the form is filed
with the Vital Statistics Unit, one of you decides that you want
to withdraw this acknowledgment, you have two options. The first
option is to file a legal document known as a Petition to
Rescind. You may only file a Petition to Rescind if you have not
been part of a court case concerning the child. If both you and
the mother agree that you are not the father, after you file the
Petition to Rescind, the court will declare that you are not the
father. If the baby’s mother receives welfare benefits, the
State must also agree that you are not the father. If there is
no agreement as to whether you are the father, the court will
hold a hearing to determine whether you are the father.
There is also a second option. If you are
summoned for a court proceeding about that child within 60 days
of signing the Acknowledgment of Paternity, you may ask the
court to cancel the AOP. The court will then decide whether to
grant your request.
What if 60 days have passed since the mother and I signed the
voluntary acknowledgement of paternity and I realized that I may
not be the biological father of the child?
If after the 60-day period expires, you no longer believe that
you are the child’s father, you will have to go to court and
file a lawsuit to contest the voluntary Acknowledgment of
Paternity. To contest a voluntary acknowledgment, you must prove
that the document was signed under conditions of fraud (someone
lied in signing the document), duress (you were forced to sign),
or mistake of fact (you thought one thing and another thing is
true). Contesting an AOP will likely require the assistance of
You must file a lawsuit to contest the AOP
within four years of filing this form.
A minor who signs an AOP has 4 years from
the date they reach the age of majority (18) to contest
What if the mother says I am the father but I don’t think I
If you do not think that you are the biological father and you
have not signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity, a suit may be
brought against you to establish that you are the father. The
mother, child, or government can sue to establish whether you
are the biological father.
If you do not appear for a paternity
hearing, the court can declare you to be the father of the
child. This order is called a default order and may include an
order to pay child support.
Why would a mother force me to go through the legal process
of establishing that I am the father?
In some cases the mother must establish that you are the legal
father of her child because the State requires her to in order
to receive financial assistance. She must cooperate in helping
the State establish who is the father of the child, or the State
will decrease the amount of support that it gives her.
Having a legal determination of who is the
father of a child offers many benefits to everyone involved. For
instance, the child will only be entitled to child support if a
legal father has been named. In addition, you will only have the
right to ask a court for visitation if you are determined to be
the legal father. And the mother, by establishing paternity,
will be able to receive financial assistance to help care for
What happens when I go to court for a paternity case?
You will first receive a document from the court. It is very
important that you read and understand everything in this
When you appear in court, it will most
likely be in front of a judge or a child support master. The
court is supposed to provide an interpreter at no charge for any
father who does not speak English, or for a father who is deaf.
In the court proceeding, you will be asked
whether you admit to paternity or not. If you admit to
paternity, a judgment will be entered and child support may be
immediately ordered, or support may be ordered at a later
hearing. If you deny paternity, a paternity test will likely be
If a paternity test is ordered, you, the
mother, and your child must all appear for the test. If you fail
to appear to take a court-ordered paternity test, the court may
hold you in contempt. If there is sufficient proof, the court
may also enter a default judgment declaring you to be the
What should I expect if a mother claims I am the father of a
child, but I say I am not and she takes me to court?
Every case is different and there is no guarantee for what you
can expect if parents disagree on paternity and a lawsuit is
If you can afford one, you have the right
to be represented by an attorney at any stage of a paternity
trial. If the mother can afford one, she has the right to be
represented by an attorney at any stage of a paternity trial.
The child support attorney from the Office of the Attorney
General represents the interest of the State and cannot
represent either parent or alleged parent.
A big part of any paternity suit is the
paternity DNA test.
You, the State, or any other party has the
right to request a paternity test. The government may pay for
the test. However, if it is determined that you are the father,
the court may order that you repay the government for the cost
of the test.
If the court determines that you are the
father of the child, you will be ordered to pay child support.
If you request custody or visitation, the court is required to
consider your wishes. If you wish to spend time with your child,
it is important that you request this from the court.
How important are paternity tests in paternity cases?
The results of the paternity test will determine what the court
rules as to whether you are the father of the child. If the
paternity test excludes you as the possible father, the court
will rule that you are not the father.
She says it is not my baby and she won’t let me have
parenting time. What should I do?
If you are not married to the mother of your child and paternity
has not been established, you can file a petition with the court
that you be declared the child’s legal father. If you can afford
one, you have the right to be represented by an attorney at any
stage of a paternity trial. If the mother can afford one, the
mother also has the right to be represented by an attorney at
any stage of a paternity trial. The child support attorney from
the Office of the Attorney General represents the interest of
the State. You may ask the Child Support Division of the Office
of the Attorney General to begin the court process of having you
declared the legal father of the child.
You should begin by requesting a paternity
test for the mother, the child, and yourself. If you request the
tests, the court will order each of you to take one. If a court
orders or the parties agree to paternity tests, the results of
these tests will be a part of the paternity trial.
If the court determines you are the legal
father of the child, you will be responsible for the child
support. You will also have the right to request custody or
visitation orders from the court. If you wish to spend time with
your child, it is important that you make this request.
I am not married to a woman who is pregnant with my child.
Could someone else adopt the baby without my permission?
Yes. Texas law requires unmarried fathers to act very promptly
to establish that they are a baby’s father to avoid losing their
rights if the child is put up for adoption. Unmarried fathers
who have not legally established paternity should register with
the state’s registry of paternity located at the Vital
Statistics Unit, 1100 W. 49th Street, Austin, TX, 78756-3191.
To legally establish paternity means that you have filed an
Acknowledgment of Paternity or had a court determine that you
are the father of the child. You can register before the baby is
born. But you must register no later than 31 days after the
birth of the child. You will not be charged any money for
registering with the state’s registry of paternity.
Not registering can have serious
consequences. It may lead to your parental rights being
terminated if you cannot be located.
If you do not register, you will be
notified of a potential adoption only if you have filed a suit
to establish paternity before your parental rights are
I was worried that the mother of my child would place our
child up for adoption. I registered with the paternity for
registry within 31 days of the child’s birth. Is there anything
else that I need to do to make sure that my parental rights are
not terminated so that she cannot place the child for adoption?
Yes. You should be sure to notify the paternity registry any
time there is a change in any of the information you provided to
the registry. In particular, you should inform the paternity
registry anytime you change your address.
If you do not tell the paternity registry
of your changed address, the mother of your child may be able to
get a court order to terminate your parental rights without your
knowing about it. The mother would be able to do this because
she was not able to provide you with the required notification.
Once your parental rights are terminated, your child may be
adopted without your receiving notice or having the right to
object to this adoption.
What are the legal benefits of establishing paternity for an
If you have not been declared the legal father, you have no
legal right to seek custody or visitation with your child.
Once paternity has been established, you
become the legal father of that child, with all of the rights
and responsibilities of a father who was married to the mother.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office cannot help you obtain
visitation with or custody of your child. There is no guarantee
of the right to custody or visitation, but you have the right to
raise the issue of custody and visitation in court.
If you sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity,
you may go to court to ask for custody of or visitation with the
child. If you establish paternity through the court system, the
court is required to consider your wishes concerning visitation
and custody. You should ask the court to order specific days and
hours you can be with the child.
Establishing paternity also helps children.
Your children might be entitled to Social Security, veteran’s
benefits, or health insurance. Establishing paternity helps to
ensure your child’s eligibility for these benefits.
are the legal consequences of establishing paternity for an
If you are declared the legal father of a child, you will most
likely be required to pay child support. If you do not get a
child support order when you are made the legal father, there
will likely be an order at another hearing or at some time in
the future. Unless you have primary custody of the child, you
will be responsible for child support. You may also be
responsible for some of the costs of the mother’s pregnancy, the
child’s health care expenses, retroactive child support, and
In Texas, many penalties can be assessed
against a father who does not pay child support. Some of these
penalties include: posting your picture in private and public
locations and in the news, revoking your driver’s license,
intercepting your tax refunds, denying occupation licenses,
denying you state loans or grants, referring you to private
collection agencies, reporting you to a consumer reporting
agency, placing you in jail or on community supervision of
You will also be required to pay interest
on any past due child support. Child support judgments 9/1/93 -
12/31/03 had 12% interest, and judgments since 1/1/02 are
entitled to 6% interest.
paternity be handled without going to court?
Instead of going to court, paternity can be established and
child support set administratively in a Child Support office
through the Child Support Review Process (CSRP). If you have not
acknowledged paternity, you have the right to ask for a genetic
test. Paternity tests can also be ordered if there is doubt
about the biological father's identity. No one has to appear in
court if there is an agreement concerning custody, visitation,
and support; and everyone signs the agreed order.