I’m The Pappy!

Claiming Your Rights As A Father

The movie Life featuring Eddie Murphy (Ray Gibson) and Martin Lawrence (Claude Banks) is hilarious. They live in New York City but during a moonshine run to the deep south they end up in a southern prison working on a chain gang. In a funny scene, a disabled black inmate secretly fathers a child with the white daughter of the warden. When the child is born, the warden goes ballistic trying to discover which black inmate fathered his half-black grandchild. To humiliate the warden, several of the inmates claimed to be the father, including a character played by the late Bernie Mac who said, “I’m the pappy!”The other inmates burst into laughter and the warden’s face turned cherry red with anger and humiliation. It’s a very funny scene!

On a serious tip, and in real life there’s nothing funny about determining who’s the birth father of a child. Here’s why? Until a judge determines whether a man claiming to be the father of a child is indeed the legal father that man has limited legal rights including possession or access rights. Hence, even if a man bravely claims to be a child’s father, as the men in the movie Life, or puts his name on the child’s birth certificate, it may not be enough to make him the “legal” father.  A judge must establish paternity of the child before the legal father can enforce his father rights.

On the other hand, once a judge establishes paternity or legal fatherhood, the father will gain certain legal rights and duties to the child including the responsibility to support the child with clothing, food, a home, and the right to make legal, medical, and education decisions for the child, among others.

How is Paternity Established? There are four ways that Texas law establishes paternity. We will discuss each one below:

Presumed Father

In Texas, a man is the presumed father of a child’s if at least one of four conditions are met:

  • He was married to the child’s mother when the child was born; 
  • He was married to the child’s mother any time during the 300 days before the child was born; 
  • He was married the mother after the child was born and voluntarily claimed paternity of the child, on the child’s birth certificate; or
  • During the first two years of the child’s life, he continuously lived with the child and represented to others that the child was your own.

See Texas Family Code 160.102

Under these situations, the law automatically recognizes a man as the legal father of the child until that someone else rebuts that presumption with genetic testing.

Alleged Father

A man can also be the alleged father of a child. Usually, alleged fathers are men who fathered children outside of marriage.  A man becomes the alleged father of a child when he or someone else declares him to be the father of a child. He’s only the alleged father because no court has ruled him to be the father vis-a-vis genetic testing. 

A huge distinction between presumed and alleged fathers is the duty to pay child support.  A presumed father must pay child support unless he proves he is not the father. An alleged father, however, isn’t obligated to pay child support unless genetic testing proves he is the father.

Acknowledged Father

An unmarried woman and man can sign an acknowledgment of paternity (“AOP”) to establish that the man is the child’s genetic father.  When the couple completes the AOP, the acknowledged father becomes the child’s legal father with all the rights and obligations of a legal father.  If there is a presumed father, the presumed father must sign a denial of paternity (“DOP”) that states under oath that the presumed father is not the child’s genetic father. 

Adjudicated Father

An adjudicated father is the legal father of a child. The court system established his fatherhood.  He has all the responsibilities and duties of a parent to the child. Specifically, some of the obligations and rights are listed below. For example, he has:

  • the right to receive information about the health, education, and welfare of the child;
  • right to decide about the health, education, and welfare of the child;
  • the right of access to medical, dental, psychological, and educational records of the child;
  • right to attend school events
  • the right to be designated on the child’s records as a person to be notified if an emergency occurs; and
  • much more

If you have a dispute over fatherhood or questions about paternity, you should work with an experienced attorney to establish your rights. At Corbett & Corbett LLP, we know how to win child custody battles. Call (214) 956-4418 to schedule a consultation with a dedicated and knowledgeable Dallas child custody attorney.