Texas Paternity Law for Unmarried Parents

This video features Duana Boswell-Loechel, a Family Law attorney based in Texas.

Houston Divorce Lawyer Duana Boswell-Loechel

Video Transcript:

Duana Boswell-Loechel: 

You really need to talk to an attorney to make sure that you're not leaving any rights on the table.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So what do you do if you're breaking up but you have children together? We're gonna find out right now on this episode of "Ask The Lawyer." My guest is Houston attorney Duana Boswell-Loechel. And I remind you right off the top, if you'd like to ask her questions about your situation, it's easy. Go to askthelawyers.com. There's a button you'll see at the top that says "Ask a lawyer," just click right there and it'll walk you through the process. Or of course, you can call the phone number that you'll see on the screen our conversation. Duana, it's good to see you again. Thank you for making some time to help us out.

Duana Boswell-Loechel: 

Thanks for having me.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So give us a little rundown, what are some things that unmarried parents need to know about paternity law in the State of Texas?

Duana Boswell-Loechel: 

So probably the biggest thing is when a child is born to a married couple, the husband is automatically presumed to be the father. That's not the case in an unmarried couple. So they actually have to establish the paternity of the father. And they can do that in one of three ways, which is, they can, just declare in open court that they're the father, get a DNA test, or sign what we call an "Acknowledgement of Paternity."

Rob Rosenthal: 

What if the unmarried father is listed on the birth certificate, is that not enough to establish paternity? And what else might they need to do in that situation?

Duana Boswell-Loechel: 

That is not enough in Texas to establish paternity. It is a indication of paternity, but it's not enough to actually establish him as father since a mother can just name anybody and put on a birth certificate without any proof that they're the father. And so the courts like to take it that extra step of the father actually making an affirmative action claiming paternity.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So let's say these unmarried parents split up after the baby is born, how do they move forward? What happens as far as custody and child support? Is it the same as in a regular divorce?

Duana Boswell-Loechel: 

It's very similar. We call it a Suit Affecting Parent Child Relationship, or affectionately called a SAPCR. And it has the basic layout as it would in a divorce, except for we have the paternity section of it. So that's gonna be establishing the father as the father. And then it'll go through the same possession access, rights and duties and child support and health insurance.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Let's say the father is not beneficially named as the father, hasn't gotten the paternity, and the mother is denying parenting time with the father before any custody or paternity, is there anything that he can do?

Duana Boswell-Loechel: 

There's not a whole lot he can do if mom is denying until he establishes that he is father, and establishes that he has the right to those possession times. And a lot of times, he can do that just by establishing the child support. They'll also do the paternity at the same time.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Let's take it the other way around. What if the mother is trying to establish paternity and the father doesn't think that it's his child, what can be done there?

Duana Boswell-Loechel: 

We can file a paternity action. It's the same regardless of which parent is, and ask the court to require the DNA testing so that we can prove that this is the biological father. And then the court could order the possession, access, child support, the same provisions.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Is there anything else you think you'd like unmarried parents in Texas to know, to be aware of about paternity law?

Duana Boswell-Loechel: 

So one thing to really know, is if you're married to one individual and then you separate and you don't obtain a divorce, and you have a child with another man or woman, and the man is gonna be... The husband is always presumed to be the father, even though he may not be the biological father. So you'll actually have to get the biological father to claim paternity, and the husband to disclaim paternity. So it's better just to go ahead and get that divorce issued before moving on to another relationship.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Lots of interesting information as always, Duana. Thank you for helping us out again today.

Duana Boswell-Loechel: 

And thank you.

Rob Rosenthal: 

And that's gonna do it for this episode of "Ask the Lawyer." My guest has been Houston attorney Duana Boswell-Loechel. And again, I remind you, if you'd like to ask her questions about your situation, go to askthelawyers.com. Click the button at the top that says "Ask a lawyer" and it will have a very simple form there for you to fill out. Thank you for watching everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal for "Ask The Lawyers."

Disclaimer: This video is for informational purposes only. In some states, this video may be deemed Attorney Advertising. The choice of lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.



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