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How are parental relationships legally established?

The Texas courts allow for numerous ways for a parent-child relationship to be established. Establishing legal parent-child status can make a difference during divorce and family law disputes. If one parent has such a status and the other does not, for example, the outcome of custody cases can be very different than expected.

Mother-child legal relationships are established in one of three ways. The relationship is automatically established when a mother gives birth. Alternatively, a court can adjudicate such a relationship, legally naming the woman as the mother. Finally, a legal adoption establishes the relationship.

Since a father can't give birth, the methods of establishing the relationship are a bit different. Adjudication and adoption are both valid methods of establishing the relationship. If a man consents to an assisted reproduction and his wife becomes pregnant and births a child, then the relationship is generally established as well.

If a man legally acknowledges a child as his under Texas law, then a father-child relationship is established. This relationship is considered ongoing unless the man rescinds his acknowledgement or another party effectively proves that the man is the not the child's father.

Finally, a number of circumstances create presumption that a man is a child's father. For example, if a man is married to a woman and a child is born during that marriage, then the man is usually presumed to be the child's father. If the man marries a woman after the birth of the child and voluntarily asserts that he is the father of the child, then the relationship is also created.

The ins-and-outs of parent-child relationships can become a bit complex, which is why it can be helpful to approach family law issues with professional assistance. Asserting paternity, challenging paternity or fighting for custody even though paternity is being challenged are just some ways an attorney can help in such matters.

Source: Texas Family Code, "The parent-child relationship and the suit affecting the parent-child relationship," accessed Jan. 01, 2016

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