Your girlfriend is pregnant with your baby. Does that make you the legal father?

Most fathers-to-be assume that being the biological father of the child automatically gives them legal status as the father.  Most fathers-to-be also assume that having their name on the birth certificate as the father makes them the legal father.  Neither of those assumptions is correct. In the state of Texas, you are not the legal father unless one of three things happens: (1) you are the presumed father; (2) you sign a valid acknowledgment of paternity, or (2) a court enters an order stating you are the father.

A man is a “presumed” father if he (a) was married to the mother when the child was born, (b) was married to the mother any time during the 300 days before the child was born, or (c) married the mother after the baby was born and voluntarily claimed paternity through the bureau of vital statistics, on the birth certificate or in a record promising to support the child as his own.  If you do not qualify as a presumed father and have not taken steps to obtain legal status as the father, you are known as the “alleged father.”  An alleged father is the genetic father or one who is claimed to be the genetic father of the child.

If you are not married and you find yourself becoming a father, you want to be sure both you and the mother sign an acknowledgment of paternity when the baby is born.  The hospital may have this form available for you to sign.  Be sure to keep a copy of the completed form for your records.  The form must be completed before a certified acknowledgment of paternity entity, and it must be properly submitted to the Bureau of Vital Statistics.  In other words, you cannot simply print a form off the internet, fill it out, and be legally considered the father.  If you and the mother properly complete an acknowledgment of paternity, you will have all the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent and will legally be considered the father.

If no acknowledgment of paternity was signed and you do not meet the criteria of a “presumed father,” the courts will have to make a finding that you are the dad.  This is known as “adjudicating paternity.”  If both parties agree in court that you are the dad, then the judge will enter a finding that you are the father.  If one party contests paternity, then the court will order genetic testing.  If the testing shows you are the father, then you will legally be adjudicated as the dad.



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