The birth of a baby brings joy, love and hope for the future. And, for unmarried couples, it also brings the added responsibility of establishing paternity for their child.
Establishing paternity is one of the most important steps unmarried parents can take because it creates a legal relationship between a father and his child. Paternity establishment ensures that children are eligible for child support and possibly other benefits such as Social Security, veteran survivor benefits and health insurance. Legal paternity guarantees a father's parental rights should he and the mother ever separate. It also enables the father's name to go on the birth certificate.
Hear personal testimonials from actual parents who explain the Acknowledgment of Paternity process and why establishing paternity was the right thing to do for them and for their children.
The Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) is an administrative process that allows parents who are not married to each other to establish paternity for their child. When both the biological father and the mother sign the AOP form and it is filed with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit (VSU), it becomes a legal finding of paternity. The biological father then becomes the legal father and has all the rights and duties of a parent, including his name being placed on the birth certificate. Parents who would like to establish paternity for their child through the AOP process must seek the assistance of an AOP certified entity.
Parents may complete an AOP before, at the time of, or any time after the birth of the child, but before a child support order or paternity determination is made. If the father cannot be at the hospital at the time of birth, the AOP can be completed at the county birth registrar's office or at an Office of the Attorney General (OAG) child support office, or by an AOP certified entity. There is no cost to complete an AOP for a child.
Note: Parents are not required to open a child support case to complete an AOP at an OAG child support office.
An AOP may not be appropriate in all instances. For example, an AOP is not appropriate if the mother or alleged father is unsure about the paternity of the child, or if family violence is a concern. Regardless of the situation, if parents do not wish to use the AOP process to establish paternity for their child, they may establish paternity through a court order with the assistance of a private attorney or by opening an OAG child support case. For more information, refer to Frequently Asked Questions for parents.