DADS PREEMPTIVELY ASSERTING RIGHT
Texas Paternity Registry: Dads Preemptively Asserting Rights
In Texas, if a woman has your child, your rights in regard to that child are only maintained in one of the following ways:
- You are married to the mother at the time of the conception or the birth of the child. See the specific requirements in Texas Family Code Section 160.204;
- Your name is on the birth certificate of the child;
- You and the mother sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity;
- You have completed a Notice of Intent to Claim Paternity with the State Paternity Registry; or
- The mother maintains custody of the child and you (or she) file a Paternity suit.
Why is it important to assert and protect your rights?
Texas law allows for the rights of a biological father to be terminated without genetic testing to determine parentage, without the father present at any court hearing, and without any notice to the biological father if he has not accomplished one of the above methods to establish those rights. After a father’s rights are terminated, he will not have standing to request visitation or any other rights regarding that child.
When to Register
Any time you believe a woman may be pregnant with your child, and you want to have the right to be notified before your rights are terminated, you should register with the Texas Paternity Registry before the child is born, but no later than 31 days after the birth of the child. It is the public policy of the State of Texas to allow adoptions of newborns to happen quickly and easily. Unless you take the necessary steps to protect your rights, your rights can be terminated and the adoption proceedings can be completed very quickly in Texas. If you are registered with the Texas Paternity Registry, you can preserve your rights. If the mother of the child begins the adoption process, and you have filed with the Texas Paternity Registry, the Court will likely still require genetic testing unless an agreement is reached. A court case to resolve the issues of custody, child support, and visitation will ensue, but registering, and maintaining updated contact information with the Texas Paternity Registry will ensure that your rights will not be terminated without notice to you.
Effects of Registering
Registering with the Texas Paternity Registry is just asserting your belief that you are or may be the father of a potential child, and that you wish to preserve your rights as the father of that child. Registration DOES NOT initiate any legal proceedings to obtain any custody or visitation rights for the child. In order to begin to gain the right to anything other than notice of the possible future adoption and/or termination proceedings, (e.g., visitation, decision-making rights, etc.) you will need to consult an experienced family law attorney and discuss your options and rights in regard to a Paternity case or a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship.
Additionally, if the mother of the child wants the father to pay child support, she can request assistance from theOffice of the Attorney General or a local family law attorney who will begin that legal proceeding. If you are registered on the Texas Paternity Registry, you will likely be a part of that lawsuit. If you are the father, you may be ordered to pay child support, including prenatal and delivery expenses of the mother. This is also the process that will get you visitation and decision-making rights regarding the child.
However, if the mother begins the adoption process, or attempts to have your rights terminated, you will be notified and have a chance to defend yourself if you do not want those rights terminated. Once those rights are terminated, it is nearly impossible to have them reinstated.
How to Register
Go to http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/vs/patreg and complete the form. You can also contact the Texas Paternity Registry for additional information:
Texas Paternity Registry
Vital Statistics Unit – 1966
Texas Department of State Health Services
P.O. Box 149347
Austin, Texas 78714-9347
Toll Free #: (888) 963-7111 Ext. 7782
Fax: (512) 458-7164
As always, please contact your local, experienced family law attorney before making any decisions regarding filing with the Texas Paternity Registry.