Welcome to a unique and informative fictional conversation between a non-custodial parent (NCP) and Ben Beveridge, an experienced family law attorney based in Brazoria County. This dialogue aims to provide insights and guidance on the topic of paternity, addressing the most pressing questions NCPs may have. While this conversation is fictional, it is based on the real-world experiences and knowledge of Ben Beveridge, who, after successfully securing equal access to his own children less than three months after passing the bar exam, has become a passionate advocate for laws promoting equal access to both parents.
In this Q&A, we explore the world of paternity, its legal significance, and its various aspects within the framework of Texas law. If you have specific questions or need personalized assistance with your own unique situation, don’t hesitate to reach out to Ben at 281-407-0961 or visit the Beveridge Law Firm, PLLC website at https://www.beveridgelawfirm.com/contact/. Your journey as a parent is worth every effort, and Ben is here to guide you through it.
Q&A: Navigating Paternity in Texas
Non-Custodial Parent (NCP): Ben, thank you for joining us today. Let’s start at the beginning. What exactly is paternity, and why is it important in the context of Texas law?
Ben Beveridge (BB): I’m delighted to be here, NCP. Paternity, in Texas, is the legal identification of a child’s father. It’s not just a title but a legal status that carries specific rights and responsibilities. Establishing paternity is crucial because it ensures that a child is eligible for various benefits, including child support, insurance, inheritance, and veteran-survivor benefits. It might surprise you, but a child born to unwed parents doesn’t have a legal father under Texas law. Even having your name on the birth certificate doesn’t automatically make you the legal father.
NCP: That’s enlightening, Ben. So, what happens when a father and mother separate? How does legal paternity help in such cases?
BB: Legal paternity is vital in cases of separation. It establishes parental rights for the father, enabling access to the child’s school and medical records, the right to request custody through a court, and potentially obtaining child support. Before a mother can get a court to order child support, paternity must be established. Moreover, it opens doors to the child’s entitlement to the father’s benefits, such as medical and social security benefits.
NCP: It’s clear that paternity is significant. What are the various ways to establish paternity in Texas?
BB: In Texas, there are several methods to establish paternity:
- Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP): The biological mother and father can sign a sworn acknowledgment, which is filed with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit.
- Court-Ordered Paternity: If there’s a dispute over the biological father, a family court may order a DNA test.
- Marriage: A child born to a married couple automatically assumes the husband is the father. Paternity can also be established even in cases where a marriage is invalid and the child is born within the relationship.
- Texas Paternity Registry: This voluntary registry allows a man to register as the child’s father when the biological father refuses acknowledgment.
NCP: That’s a comprehensive list. But what if the mother is married to someone other than the biological father when the child is born?
BB: It depends on the circumstances. If the mother is married to someone other than the biological father at the child’s birth, or the child is born within 300 days of the mother’s divorce from that man, the presumed father holds legal rights. However, if the presumed father signs a Denial of Paternity within an AOP, the biological father can assert their rights.
NCP: What about the accuracy of genetic testing in establishing paternity?
BB: DNA testing is highly accurate, with accuracy rates of up to 99.99 percent. If you believe you’re not the biological father, you can challenge the evidence by providing alternative genetic testing that excludes you as the father or identifies another possible father. If multiple potential fathers are identified, further testing may be ordered by the court.
NCP: Can an acknowledgment of paternity be retracted?
BB: Yes, potentially. An acknowledgment of paternity can be retracted if the individual who signed it files a rescission with the Vital Statistics Unit within 60 days of signing or before a lawsuit related to the child begins, whichever comes first.
NCP: And in cases of surrogacy, how is paternity established?
BB: When a married couple uses artificial insemination, the child is typically considered the child of the husband and wife, not of the donor. Consent to