When a married woman becomes pregnant, the law automatically assumes that her husband is the child’s legal and biological father. But when an unmarried woman has a child, paternity has to be established before the family courts can issue orders for child support, child custody, or visitation.
When a baby’s parents are not married, they can voluntarily sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form (AOP) at the hospital shortly after the child’s birth. However, if the mother or the presumed father have any doubts about the baby’s biological father, the AOP form should not be signed. After all, 18 years is a long time for a man to pay child support for a child who is not his.
When There is Doubt About the Father
It is very common for there to be doubts about paternity. Sometimes, the child will be born and the mother will be uncertain about who the child’s father is. Usually, she’ll come up with some names and the potential fathers will be contacted and asked to provide a sample of their DNA (a paternity test). In Texas, paternity can even be established if the father is still in high school or if he’s living in another state.
“What if we didn’t plan the pregnancy?” Under Texas law, both parents are legally obligated to financially support their children whether the pregnancy was planned or not, and regardless if the parents are married.
Understandably, mothers are responsible for caring for their children, even when their pregnancy is unplanned, but so are fathers. In light of this, once the court establishes paternity, the father is responsible for paying child support until the child turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever happens later.
“What if the father does not believe the child is his?” In that case, he has every right to ask the court for a paternity test. Once DNA samples are taken from the alleged father and child, they will be tested and the court will confirm or deny paternity. If paternity is confirmed, then the mother can seek child support and the biological father can ask the court for custody or visitation orders.
If you need to open a paternity or child custody case, contact the Law Firm of Johnson & Gaskill PLLC at (832) 210-1698 today.