Child custody is perhaps one of the most sensitive issues that come up when parents separate, whether they are married or not. According to the website of Holmes, Diggs & Sadler, when a child custody case is not handled correctly, it can very quickly become acrimonious, something which is not in the best interest of any child.
Under the Texas Family Code, biological parents have equal rights to obtain conservatorship (custody) or visitation rights to a child. However, when the biological relationship between a father and child is brought into question in a custodial dispute, establishing paternity of the child becomes of paramount importance.
Under Chapter 160 of the Texas Family Code (Uniform Parentage Act), the paternity of a child may be established in three ways:
- Presumption of Paternity
- Acknowledgment of Paternity
- DNA Testing
Perhaps naively, Texas law states that when a couple has a child while they are married, the husband is the presumed father. If this is not actually the case, the biological father cannot sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) unless the husband first agrees to sign a Denial of Paternity. If the husband refuses, the biological father can bring the case before the Texas Attorney General which will then establish paternity.
Unless there is a existing dispute, the state recommends that both parents, married or not sign an AOP at the time of birth in establishing paternity. The father’s name is then inscribed on the birth certificate. Until that is done, the father has no legal standing with regards to the child, and this includes all responsibilities, rights and benefits including child custody. All Texas hospitals have the necessary forms available, and signing the AOP then saves time and money, rather than accomplishing it later which would incur a fee.
DNA testing only becomes necessary when there is no AOP because one parent refused to sign it and establishing paternity becomes necessary, such as during a child custody case. If the father fails in establishing paternity, he will not have the right to request for legal or physical conservatorship, visitation rights, or any confidential information about the child such as medical records.
If you are having problems with child custody in Texas, contact a child custody lawyer in your area to get help in establishing paternity. You will not be able to gain access to your child unless you do so.