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Establishing paternity

When a child is born, the mother's name automatically goes on the birth certificate. There is not likely to be any doubt who the mother is. But there may be questions about the father.


If the parents are married, the husband's name will be placed on the birth certificate, unless he denies that he is the baby's biological father. But in Texas, if the parents are not married, no father's name appears on the birth certificate unless the baby's parents take steps to establish legal fatherhood. This is also called establishing paternity.

Biological father

The man whose sperm brings the baby into being.

Presumed father

The husband of the baby's mother.

Alleged father

A man not married to the baby's mother, but who is claimed to be the biological father.

Legal father

The man whose name appears on the baby's birth certificate.

The legal father is the child's father in the eyes of the law, with all the rights and responsibilities of parenthood. The presumed father becomes the legal father automatically unless he denies paternity. An unmarried man or a man other than the mother's husband has to establish paternity to become a legal father.

Did You Know?
A simple test can establish with better than 99% certainty that a man is or is not the biological father of a child. This is called paternity testing, and it can be ordered by a court.

There are three ways to establish paternity:

  • The parents can both sign a form called an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP).
  • The parents can go to the Child Support Office together and sign an Agreed Order establishing paternity and setting a child support amount.
  • A Paternity Petition can be filed in court, asking that an alleged father be named the legal father.

The first two ways (AOP and Agreed Order) are for parents who both want to establish legal fatherhood. The third way is for parents who are not in agreement. The court rules on the petition, establishing or denying paternity based on evidence presented in court. Once paternity has been established, a court may decide issues of custody, visitation, and the payment of child support in the event that the parents separate.


Talk about it
Healthy relationships
Teens as parents
When it's scary
Dating Violence
What's a parent?
The legal father
What to expect
What it takes
Facts of life
Team parenting
Tips for parents


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