Every child born has a biological father. Not every child born has a legal father. In Texas, the prevailing view that seems to be the foundation of the law around paternity is that every child benefits when a legal relationship is established with both the mother and father.
Pegging maternity is generally easy. The rights and obligations associated with that moniker usually attach to the woman who gives birth to the child. But legal paternity is another matter. If the mother is married, her husband is presumed to be the father of the child, even if he isn't. If she is not married, legal fatherhood has to be established in one of two ways. Do you know what they are? If not, and you face legal paternity questions, you should be speaking with an attorney.
That's the best way to be sure that if you are the father, that you can learn what you need to do to establish and protect your rights and meet your obligations under this important role. If you are not the father and want to ensure that you aren't held unduly accountable, going to court is likely to be required and an attorney's help will again be of benefit.
As we've noted, the only way paternity is granted automatically is when the couple enjoys married status. The husband is the presumed father. Outside of that situation, and especially when there's a chance that a mother might want or need to seek social services, the state has a vested interest in establishing some alternative paternity standing.
This is done through filing an Acknowledgment of Paternity form. Both parents have to sign the paper. And if there is a husband who is not the father, the expectation is that he will sign a Denial of Paternity unless he intends to accept fatherhood of the child.
The courts can be turned to when circumstances call for it. That might be required if a husband refuses to sign the Denial of Paternity or if an alleged father feels a need to dispute the claim. The state could also initiate action if there is doubt.
Of course, in the end, the ultimate driver on all such matters is to do what is in the best interest of the child.
Source: Texas Attorney General, "Paternity Establishment," accessed Aug. 18, 2015