RIGHTS OF UNMARRIED FATHERS IN TEXAS
LEGAL DEFINITION OF ‘FATHER’
Citation: Family Code §§ 160.102; 160.204
An ‘adjudicated father’ is a man who has been adjudicated by a court to be the father of a child. A ‘presumed father’ is a man who, by operation of law under § 160.204, is recognized as the father of a child until that status is rebutted or confirmed in a judicial proceeding.
A man is presumed to be the father of a child if:
- He is married to the mother of the child, and the child is born during the marriage.
- He was married to the child’s mother, and the child is born before the 301st day after the date the marriage is terminated.
- He married the child’s mother before the birth of the child, even if the attempted marriage is or could be declared invalid, and the child is born during the invalid marriage or before the 301st day after the date the marriage is terminated.
- He married the child’s mother after the birth of the child, regardless of whether the marriage is or could be declared invalid, he voluntarily asserted his paternity of the child, and:
- The assertion is in a record filed with the Vital Statistics Unit.
- He is voluntarily named as the child’s father on the child’s birth certificate.
- He promised in a record to support the child as his own.
- During the first 2 years of the child’s life, he continuously resided in the household in which the child resided, and he represented to others that the child was his own.
Citation: Family Code §§ 160.401; 160.402
A registry of paternity is established in the Vital Statistics Unit.
A man who desires to be notified of a proceeding for the adoption of or the termination of parental rights regarding a child that he may have fathered may register with the registry of paternity:
- Before the birth of the child
- No later than the 31st day after the date of the birth of the child
ALTERNATE MEANS TO ESTABLISH PATERNITY
Citation: Family Code §§ 160.301; 160.302; 160.402; 160.601
The mother of a child and a man claiming to be the biological father of the child may sign an acknowledgment of paternity with the intent to establish the man’s paternity. An acknowledgment of paternity must:
- Be in a record
- Be signed or otherwise authenticated by the mother and the man seeking to establish paternity
- State that the child whose paternity is being acknowledged:
- Does not have a presumed father or has a presumed father whose full name is stated
- Does not have another acknowledged or adjudicated father
- State whether there has been genetic testing and, if so, that the acknowledging man’s claim of paternity is consistent with the results of the testing
- State that the signatories understand that the acknowledgment is the equivalent of a judicial adjudication of the paternity of the child and that a challenge to the acknowledgment is permitted only under limited circumstances
A man is entitled to notice of a proceeding regardless of whether he registers with the registry of paternity if:
- A father-child relationship between the man and the child has been established under this chapter or another law.
- The man commences a proceeding to adjudicate his paternity before the court has terminated his parental rights.
The parentage of a child may be adjudicated in a civil proceeding.
Citation: Family Code §§ 160.411; 160.402
The Vital Statistics Unit shall adopt a form for registering with the registry. The form requires the signature of the registrant and must state that:
- The form is signed under penalty of perjury.
- A timely registration entitles the registrant to notice of a proceeding for adoption of the child or for termination of the registrant’s parental rights.
- A timely registration does not commence a proceeding to establish paternity.
- The information disclosed on the form may be used against the registrant to establish paternity.
- Services to assist in establishing paternity are available to the registrant through the support enforcement agency.
- The registrant should also register in another state if the conception or birth of the child occurred in the other state.
- Information on registries in other states is available from the unit.
- Procedures exist to rescind the registration of a claim of paternity.
A registrant shall promptly notify the registry of any change in the information provided by the registrant. The Vital Statistics Unit shall incorporate all new information received into its records, but is not required to affirmatively seek to obtain current information for incorporation in the registry.
REVOCATION OF CLAIM TO PATERNITY
Citation: Family Code §§ 160.307; 160.308; 160.414
A signatory may rescind an acknowledgment of paternity before the earlier of:
- Sixty days after the effective date of the acknowledgment
- The date a proceeding to which the signatory is a party is initiated before a court to adjudicate an issue relating to the child, including a proceeding that establishes child support
After the period for rescission has expired, a signatory of an acknowledgment of paternity may commence a proceeding to challenge the acknowledgment only on the basis of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact. The proceeding may be commenced at any time before the issuance of an order affecting the child identified in the acknowledgment or denial, including an order relating to support of the child. A party challenging an acknowledgment of paternity or denial of paternity has the burden of proof.
Evidence based on genetic testing that the man who is the signatory of an acknowledgement of paternity is not rebuttably identified as the father of a child in accordance with § 160.505 constitutes a material mistake of fact.
A registrant in the putative fathers registry may rescind his registration at any time by sending a rescission in a record or another manner authenticated by him and witnessed or notarized to the registry.
ACCESS TO INFORMATION
Citation: Family Code § 160.412
The Vital Statistics Unit is not required to attempt to locate the mother of a child who is the subject of a registration. The unit shall send a copy of the notice of the registration to a mother who has provided an address.
Information contained in the registry is confidential and only may be released on request to:
- A court or a person designated by the court
- The mother of the child who is the subject of the registration
- An agency authorized by law to receive the information
- A licensed child-placing agency
- A support enforcement agency
- A party, or the party’s attorney of record, to a proceeding under this chapter or a proceeding to adopt or to terminate parental rights regarding a child who is the subject of the registration
- The registry of paternity in another state