If you and the mother of your child were not married to each other at the time your child was born in Texas, (s)he has no legal father. Nor do you have any legal rights to him or her.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office explains that to remedy this situation, you must establish paternity of your child. The process usually is quite simple, and you have the following three options:

  1. You and your child’s mother sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity and file it with the State.
  2. You and your child’s mother sign an Agreed Paternity Order and a judge approves it.
  3. You file a paternity suit and petition the judge to declare you the legal father of your child.

Acknowledgment of Paternity

An Acknowledgment of Paternity is a simple form that you and your child’s mother fill out at the time of your child’s birth or any time thereafter. You can obtain this free form by doing one of the following:

  • Ask for an AOP at the hospital where your child’s mother goes for her labor and delivery.
  • Ask for one at a vital statistics office, the Texas Attorney General’s office, or any other AOP-approved state agency.
  • Call the AOP Hotline at 866-255-2006 and ask for one.

Both you and your child’s mother need to fill out the AOP, sign it in front of a notary public, and then file it with an AOP-approved state agency. The agency will process it and then notify the appropriate authorities so they can put your name on your child’s birth certificate as his or her legal father.

Agreed Paternity Order

An Agreed Paternity Order is similar to an AOP in terms of you and your child’s mother needing to sign it. The difference is that in this instance, the document you and she sign is a court order wherein you both agree not only that you are your child’s father, but also that you agree on child custody and support matters. You may wish to obtain help from an attorney or the Texas Child Support Division in obtaining, filling out and filing this form. Ultimately a judge approves it, completing your paternity process.

Court-ordered paternity

In the unlikely event that your child’s mother disputes your fatherhood of the child, you will have to petition a court to declare your paternity. You undoubtedly will have to take a court-approved paternity test, but you may be able to get one for free by working through the Child Support Division. Assuming the test comes back positive, the judge will then declare you as your child’s legal father.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.