W. Tyler Moore, PC

Asserting paternal rights for unmarried fathers

In the 1950s, it was rare for a child to be born to an unmarried woman in Texas or anywhere else in America. In fact, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, only 4% of children were born to unmarried couples in America.

By 2008, this increased to 40%. During this time, the role of fathers also changed, with men actively participating in the raising of their children more than ever.

When a man is not married to the mother of his child, he may need to take steps to assert his paternity in order to gain paternal rights. Many states allow fathers to voluntarily acknowledge paternity or record putative paternity. Additionally, men may file an affidavit in court acknowledging their paternity and may even consent to having their name added to the child’s birth certificate.

It is also important to understand the different types of fathers recognized at the state level:

  •          Acknowledged fathers have signed an acknowledgement of paternity to establish a father-child relationship.
  •          The status of adjudicated fathers is determined by a court of competent jurisdiction.
  •          Alleged fathers are those who claim or who someone else claims to be the biological father.
  •          Presumed fathers are recognized as fathers until a judicial proceeding proves otherwise.
  •          Putative fathers are reportedly the fathers of the children in question, but who have not yet legally established paternity.

Note that when a man alleges or is alleged to be the father of a child, the court may require genetic testing. If a man may not be the biological father of a child, but wishes to establish paternity anyway, genetic testing may still cause him to lose paternal rights. As a result, it is important to consider carefully the route to follow for establishing paternity when there is the possibility that the man may not be the genetic father of the child.  

For men who successfully establish paternity and competency, they are able to enjoy the benefits of playing an active role in the upbringing of their child. In fact, Pew points out that more states are considering joint custody as a replacement for the tendency for mothers to retain primary custody. This not only allows fathers to make a positive contribution to their children’s lives, but provides the opportunity for children to benefit from maintaining a strong connection with both parents.

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