Being a parent is a special role, and often brings with it numerous emotions, both positive and negative. On one hand, a parent can feel proud, happy and excited at the love and possibilities a child brings into the world. On the other, there can be uncertainty, anxiety and doubt about how to go about caring for such a fragile being, and what difficulties may appear in the future.
These negative feelings can be exacerbated, if there is uncertainty as to the actual parentage of the child. Or, whether a person will have full access to the child and the right to contribute to decisions about its welfare. This can be especially true about fathers, particularly if the child is born out of wedlock.
In Texas, children born outside of a marriage do not have a presumed father, as those born to a married mother. Because of this, a single father will not begin the child’s life with any rights or privileges regarding that child. One way to remedy this is for both parents to sign an “Acknowledgement Of Paternity” or AOP.
This legal form can be found at the hospital at the time of the baby’s birth, or later at an office of vital records. A properly executed AOP will make the man signing it the legal father of the child, with the rights and responsibilities that go along with that position.
There are a couple things to be aware of regarding AOPs, however. First, if there is doubt about the paternity of the child, and the alleged father wishes to be certain through a DNA test, he should likely not complete the POA as it may interfere with his ability to contest paternity, or even get court-ordered genetic testing. Second, while a POA will give the father the right to custody, visitation and to make decisions for the child, it will create a duty to pay child support if he does not reside with the child.
Fathers are, in general, important parts of children’s lives, and being one can be a rewarding experience. But, it is important that putative fathers in Texas recognize the great responsibility they are taking on, and protect their right to know that a child is theirs and to be part of that child’s life.