Establishing Paternity – Legal Rights For Unmarried Fathers

If you are a father who has not filed the proper paperwork to establish your legal rights and custody (legal decision making and parenting time) of a child, then you may be wondering what your legal options are. If you are a father who is not married to the mother, then you can file a paternity action in the family court.

In most states, you cannot name a father on the birth certificate of a child who was born to unmarried parents unless both the mother and the father sign a voluntary declaration of paternity. You can do this at the hospital when the child is born, but if you and your partner have split up before the baby is born, then you may need to file a paternity petition to get the child’s father’s name on the birth certificate.

There are several benefits to establishing paternity, including:

Identity: It’s important for children to know who their father is and how they relate to him. Not knowing a father’s name can make it harder for many kids to form emotional connections with him, and it can cause them to lose their sense of identity as a child.

Support: The law requires that both parents are responsible for supporting a child, even if the baby is born to an unmarried couple. This includes financial support, but also includes the opportunity for a parent-child relationship and access to benefits, such as Social Security, health insurance, inheritance rights, veterans’ benefits and more.

Custody: In Texas, courts will award custody of a child to the parent who is believed to be the best caregiver for the child. Often, the decision is made after a trial that includes evidence proving the best interests of the child.

Visitation: A judge may order visitation arrangements between the child and either the mother or the father. This can also be done by an informal agreement, but it is easier to enforce with a court order.

Genetic Parentage Test: If a DNA test proves that you are the biological father, a judge can order you to pay child support or take steps to get custody of the child. A judge can also order you to take parenting classes that help you become a better father.

Establishing the Child’s Custody: If the mother and father have a custody or visitation arrangement that they both believe is in the best interest of the child, a judge can change it if it is no longer in the child’s best interests. Often, it is necessary for the court to have an expert evaluate the child’s best interests before the court can change the custody or visitation agreement.

The most common reason for a court to change an existing child custody or visitation arrangement is when a parent is no longer living with the other parent and isn’t committed to visiting or providing financial support. A change can be as simple as agreeing to an alternative arrangement or as complex as a court hearing that includes testimony from the other parent and any other parties involved. For more details visit Miami divorce & family attorney at

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