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Texas fathers’ rights: Establishing paternity for unmarried dads

In order to have parental rights for their children, unmarried fathers in Texas must take steps to establish a legal father-child relationship.

With few exceptions, it is generally assumed that a woman’s husband is the father of her child when married couples in San Antonio, and other localities, have children. No such assumption is made, however, when unwed couples have kids. Rather, men who are not married to the mothers of their children must take steps to establish a father-child relationship.

There are numerous reasons why it is important for men to establish parentage for their children. Until they do so, unmarried fathers do not have parental rights for their kids. This includes the ability to seek child custody and visitation. Furthermore, the children of unwed parents are not able to receive benefits, such as Social Security Disability, health insurance and VA benefits, from both their mothers and fathers until paternity has been established.


As specified in the Texas Uniform Parentage Act, one method to legally establish a father-child relationship is through an effective acknowledgement of paternity. This is an administrative process through which unwed parents are able to establish paternity for their children. Typically, parents opt for this method when both the mother and father agree on the child’s parentage.

Voluntary acknowledgments of paternity must be completed and signed by both the child’s mother and father. Then, they are to be filed with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit. Once this is done, these forms are considered legal findings of paternity, and thus enact fathers’ rights.


Sometimes, unmarried parents may not agree on a child’s parentage. This may be for a number of reasons, including the man questioning whether or not he is a child’s biological father or a child’s mother does not want to allow her child’s father to access his parental rights. As such, either parent may choose to take legal action. According to the Texas Attorney General, this may be done by opening a child support case with the Office of the Attorney General. These cases may also be initiated with the help of a private attorney.

In these cases, a judge will often hear evidence from both sides in order to make a determination regarding a child’s paternity. Often, genetic testing is ordered in these cases. Based on those results, family law judges will issue an adjudication of paternity, which grants unmarried fathers their parental rights.


Particularly in cases when the mothers of their children contest their claims, establishing paternity can be complicated for unwed dads in Texas. As such, those who have had children outside of wedlock may consider working with an attorney. A lawyer may explain their rights and options, as well as guide them through the process of establishing paternity.

Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, L.L.P. 12000 Huebner Rd #200 San Antonio, TX 78230 Telephone: (210) 349-9933 Fax: (210) 349-9988
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