Becoming a father is an overwhelming experience. There is such pride and joy in welcoming a new life into the world. For many people, they will get to enjoy this moment alongside their partners as just the beginning of a wonderful new adventure in life.
But this assumes the perfect scenario. But what happens when a father and a mother don’t get along? Or what about when a person refuses to list you as the father of your own child? What can a father do to ensure that they have a place in their child’s life?
To answer these questions, we’re going to need to look at the sometimes confusing topic of father’s rights. But before we get to those, we have to understand whether or not a person is granted father’s rights. This is done when the father is presumed, as we’ll first explore. Paternity must be proven when it cannot be presumed, as we’ll see. Finally, once we can show that there is paternity, we will be able to see the rights a father has in Texas.
When Is a Man Presumed to be the Father?
For most of us, our father is merely presumed to be our father. This might sound a little weird, but you’ll understand in a moment. This isn’t to say that the man you call your father isn’t. But, rather, that connection has been left as a presumption rather than a proven fact.
The reason for this is because it is simple. When a pregnant woman says that her husband is the father of the baby, why would a doctor or the government have any reason to doubt that? In 99.9% of cases, that couple is not trying to pull anything over on the authorities; 0.01% of people try to abuse this system to weird ends, while a slightly higher percentage do lie about the presumed father but it is to hide infidelity from their spouses rather than hiding anything from their doctors or government per se.
To understand exactly when Texas law presumes paternity we need to look at Section 160 of the Texas Family Code. Also known as the Uniform Parentage Act, this section of the code explains that a man is presumed to be the father of a child when:
- When a man is married to the mother of a child born during the marriage
- When a man is married to the mother of the child and the child was born within 300 days from the date on which the marriage was terminated (whether through divorce, annulment, death, or invalidity)
- When a man marries a woman before the birth of the child but the marriage is declared invalid
- When a man marries the mother of the child prior to the child’s birth and he willingly asserts his paternity over the child
- When a man resides in the household of the child continuously and treats the child as his own during the first two years of the child’s life
Note that this presumption can be extended to an individual even when it is known that they are not the biological father. For example, a couple start dating while the woman is pregnant with somebody else’s child. The biological father bounced when he found out he got somebody pregnant. However, becoming a father doesn’t scare the new boyfriend and so they decide to get married before the baby is born. In theory, there would be no issues with having him declared the father.
However, the biological father may try to re-enter the picture. But in order to do so, he would have to pass a paternity test.
How Is Paternity Proven?
When paternity is in doubt, it can be proven through a paternity test. Basically this is a way for them to compare a person’s DNA to see if it has been replicated in the child, thus showing who the father is.
A paternity test is important because it is much harder to link a child to a father than it is a mother, for obvious reasons. However, the linkage is important if somebody wants to gain father’s rights.
A person can’t just say that a child is theirs, they need to prove it. This barrier can prevent people from gaining access to a child they wrongfully thought was theirs, yet it can also be used to help gain access to one’s own child.
Building on the story from the last section, what would happen if it turned out the biological father of the child didn’t run off but that the mother never informed him about the pregnancy? He finds out she had a child later down the road and the timing suggests to him that it might be his. But he had no relationship with her and therefore no relationship with the child. He couldn’t have one unless he proved paternity but once that has been proven then he can fight to ensure his father’s rights are respected.
What Rights Does a Father Have in Texas?
Parents have the followings rights:
- To have physical possession, direct the moral and religious training of, and to designate the residence of the child
- To consent to the child’s marriage, enlistment in the armed forces, medical and dental care, psychiatric, psychological, and surgical treatment
- To represent the child in legal action and to make other decisions of a substantial legal significance
- To receive and give receipt of payments for the support of the child, to hold or disburse funds for the benefit of the child
- To inherit from and through the child
- To make decisions concerning the child’s education
All parents have a right to a relationship with their children. But that right can also be lost, so your behavior plays a big role in what rights you may have, as well.
Should I Speak to an Attorney?
If you are looking for a hand in helping you to establish paternity so you can have a relationship with your child, then an attorney is a valuable resource to have on your side. Every father deserves a relationship with their children; it’s absolutely something worth fighting for.