Ken Paxton

Paternity Establishment

Acknowledging paternity for a child born to unmarried parents is very important. Under Texas law, when a father and mother sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP), the father becomes the legal father. Acknowledgment of Paternity is a critical step to ensure that your child is eligible for child support and benefits such as Social Security, veteran's benefits, health care, and child support.

Every parent knows how hard it can be to provide kids with everything they need - clothes, food, shelter and medical care. It is a sad fact that many times children who get support from only one parent do not have all their basic needs met. That's why it is important for every child to get the kind of financial and emotional support he or she needs from both parents.

Establishing Paternity is Important!

Children can be born with diseases or disorders they inherit from their parents. Sometimes the doctors can tell at the time of birth if a baby has any family diseases or disorders. But other times health problems appear later in a child's life. Either way, it helps the doctors to know how to treat a child if they know the family medical history of both the mother and the father.

The baby may be able to get money through a government program. In some cases the baby may be eligible for Social Security, veteran's benefits, health care, or other benefits through the government.

The father may be able to provide health insurance or other benefits for the baby. Courts cannot order a parent to pay child support without legal proof of paternity.

Acknowledging Paternity at the Time of Birth

Paternity means fatherhood. When both parents sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity, the father becomes the legal father. Once paternity has been established, he can be ordered to pay child support and the court can grant him the right to visit his child. Paternity should be acknowledged at the time of birth for two main reasons.

  • First, this is the most convenient time. Everything is together in one place. The necessary forms are available at the hospitals in Texas. The father is likely to be with the mother at the hospital after the baby is born. The parents don't have to worry about mailing the forms; the hospital will make sure that everything is sent to the right place. The father's name will be put on the birth certificate without having to pay a fee.
  • Second, it's the best time for the baby. The earlier in the baby's life paternity is established, the more secure his or her future will be.

An AOP form can be obtained from the hospital (usually from the birth registrar in Medical Records). The hospital staff will send the AOP form, after it is signed by the child's mother and father, to the local registrar at the same time that they send the baby's birth certificate. If the paperwork is done at the hospital there is no charge for adding the father's name to the birth certificate. When the AOP gets to the Bureau of Vital Statistics, it is recorded. If the AOP is signed later, the Bureau of Vital Statistics charges a fee to have the father's name added to the birth certificate but will not charge to record it.

If the father cannot be at the hospital at the time of birth, the AOP can be done at the local county birth registrar's office, at a child support office, or any certified entity.