Many unwed parents assume that when a man’s name is put on a birth certificate, it means that he has all of the legal rights and responsibilities that go with being a father. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
An unwed father needs to legally establish that he is the biological father of a child. There are two ways to do that. One way is to go to court requesting an order acknowledging paternity, and the other is to execute an acknowledgement of paternity. Simply signing a document would seem like the easier of the two ways, but before signing it, you may want to understand what it does for you.
Signing an acknowledgement of paternity
In order for this document to pass scrutiny, you and the mother of your child must execute it in accordance with Texas law. Once that is done, you will receive certain legal rights as a father. You can give your child your last name, the right to inherit from you and more. You also take on the financial responsibility for your child, which means you will need to pay child support if you and the mother no longer live together.
Executing an acknowledgement of paternity does not automatically give you custody or visitation rights, however. What is does do is give you the legal standing to petition the court for it. If your relationship with the mother ends, you can go to the courts for the right to remain involved in your child’s life whether that means custody or visitation.
What happens regarding custody and visitation
Whether you establish legal paternity through an acknowledgment of paternity or a court order, you can work out a custody arrangement with the mother of your child. If your relationship as parents allows for it, you could work out a custody agreement and parenting plan outside of court just as a married couple in the midst of a divorce would. Courts tend to view joint custody as serving the best interests of the children since research proves that having access to both parents helps a child thrive.
If you and the mother come to an agreement on your own, you would need to present it to the court for approval. If you cannot agree, then you would need to attend a child custody hearing in order to assert your parental rights. In either case, the court will want to make sure that the child’s best interests remain the focus, and as a legal father, you have the right to prove the court that is the case.