To establish paternity is to acknowledge a legal relationship between a father and his children. In some cases, the law presumes paternity, but where it does not, either the mother or the father can take the necessary legal steps to establish it.
In movies and television, establishing paternity usually involves taking a DNA test to show a biological relationship. In reality, however, this is only necessary if there is a dispute over who the father is. Here is some information about how to establish paternity and why it is important.
Why establishing paternity is important
According to the Texas Attorney General, establishing paternity is important for mothers, fathers and children. For mothers, it creates a legal basis to request child support from the purported fathers should their relationship end. Establishing paternity also gives fathers legal grounds to pursue custody (called conservatorship in Texas) of their children.
How to establish paternity
It is not always necessary to establish paternity because in some cases, the law presumes it. The law presumes paternity if there was a marriage between the mother and father at the time of the baby’s conception or birth or if the father lived in the same household during the first two years of the baby’s life.
Unmarried parents can establish paternity by filling out and filing a legal document called an Acknowledgement of Paternity. Once this step is complete, it is possible to add the father’s name to the baby’s birth certificate if it does not already appear.
If there is uncertainty about whether a man is the biological father of a child or a disagreement between the mother and the alleged father, the court can order DNA testing. Because of its 99% accuracy, DNA testing settles the matter permanently.