How Does an Unmarried Man Establish Paternity in Texas?

Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), in 2019, the marriage rate for Texas was 4.9 percent per 1,000 residents, which was slightly below the national marriage rate in 2019 of 6.1 percent per 1,000 residents.  The marriage rate in Texas continues to fall steadily.  This decline affects families and a biological father’s legal rights to children born in the state.

Did you know an unmarried biological father has no legal rights to the child?

If children are born to married parents, the paternity of the children is automatic.  The husband is the ‘acknowledged or legal father,’ which gives him all the rights and duties of a parent.  However, suppose the child’s parents are not married to each other. There, the child has a biological father but not a ‘legal father’ unless a Texas court legally determines paternity.  This differs from a mother’s legal rights to her children because, under Texas law, a woman who births a child automatically creates a mother-child relationship. Legal rights are automatically assigned to her. Reminds me of the saying, “mama’s baby, daddy’s maybe.”

Determination of Parentage

The Texas Family Code calls establishing paternity a “Determination of parentage.” It requires establishing the parent-child relationship by signing a valid acknowledgment of paternity or by adjudication by a court.  In simpler terms, unmarried biological fathers can establish paternity in three main ways: voluntarily signing a document, acknowledging paternity, or by court order.

Texas Defines Fathers in Different Ways

Texas has different nomenclature for fathers. There are alleged, presumed and adjudicated fathers. Texas defines an alleged father as a man who “alleges himself to be, or is alleged to be, the genetic father or a possible genetic father of a child, but whose paternity has not been determined.” This man would need to ask for a paternity test or a court order to establish his paternity.

A presumed father is married to the child’s mother, or within 301 days after an annulment, he is voluntarily named on the child’s birth certificate. Or “during the first two 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.” A presumed father can sign a document denying paternity and ask the court to sign the document.

Finally, there are “acknowledged” or “adjudicated fathers.” These have established a father-child relationship either by voluntary acknowledgment or court order.  These fathers have all the rights and duties of a parent in Texas.

How to Establish Paternity

According to Texas Family Code Section 160.204, there are five main ways a man can establish paternity:


Much respect to any unmarried biological father who seeks to establish paternity so he can be involved in his child’s life. Such fathers are a breath of fresh air doing themselves, their children and community a great service. And we are here to help. 

Hence, if you’re dealing with a similar matter, please contact or email our staff to schedule a consultation and establish your rights as a parent in Texas.  We are ready to help you gain valuable father rights that can profoundly impact your children.