Paternity Establishment

In 1993, Congress enacted the Omnibus Reconciliation Act, which required states to create a simplified, administrative process for parents to voluntarily establish paternity in the hospital at the time of their child’s birth. The voluntary paternity acknowledgement process was enhanced again by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996. Through PRWORA, Congress required unmarried parents to sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity in order for the father’s name to be on the child’s birth certificate.

The signing of a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity is an unwed father’s first legal act of fatherhood; without it, he has none of the legal rights or responsibilities of parenthood. It is also a milestone opportunity for an unmarried father to demonstrate his commitment to his child. Paternity establishment is linked to higher levels of subsequent paternal involvement and support, as well as a host of positive child outcomes.

Fathers who pay child support also are more likely to spend time with and have a stronger influence on their children compared to fathers who do not pay child support. Without legal paternity establishment, however, the court cannot order the father to pay child support because they have no legal rights or responsibilities to their children. The Texas Office of the Attorney General – Child Support Division asked Dr. Cynthia Osborne and CFRP to study paternity establishment in Texas and provide recommendations about ways to expand paternity education, increase or sustain federal performance of paternity measures, and reduce the incidence of rescissions of paternity establishments. CFRP will determine the prenatal and parental factors that affect in‐hospital paternity establishment at the time of the child’s birth; ascertain when unmarried parents are most receptive to messages about paternity establishment; examine the association between in‐hospital paternity establishment and subsequent child support compliance or use of informal support; determine whether a father’s understanding of the paternity establishment process affects his future involvement with his child and compliance with child support; and establish the underlying motivations prompting paternity rescission filings.

Related Publications and Posts

Title Type Date
New Grant: Effectiveness of Fatherhood Programs in Texas News Post 2016 February
Making Good on Fatherhood: A Review of Fatherhood Research Brief 2016 February
Paternity Uncertainty: A Look at Rescissions and the Role of Doubt in Parents' Paternity Decisions Report 2015 August
Mapping the Paternity Establishment Decision: Regional Variation in Unmarried Fathers' Birth Attendance and Paternity Establishment Brief 2015 June
The Importance of Father Involvement Infographic 2015 June
Dads on the Dotted Line: A Look at the In-Hospital Paternity Establishment Process (Journal of Applied Science on Children) Publication Volume 5 Issue 2 (2014)
When Father Doesn’t Bother: Conditioning the Failure to Establish Paternity In-Hospital on Fathers’ Presence at the Birth Working Paper 2014 November
On the Front Lines of Paternity Establishment: Perspectives of Parents and Birth Registrars Brief 2014 December
To Be There or Not to Be There: How Fathers’ Presence at the Birth Shapes the Paternity Establishment Decision Brief 2014 September
Relationship Violence and Paternity Establishment: Mapping the Policy Implications Brief 2014 August
Infographic – Dads on the Dotted Line: Why Unmarried Dads Don't Establish Paternity News Post 2014 July
In-Hospital Paternity Establishment: A Study of Staff-Parents-and Policy Report 2014 June
5 Things You Should Know about Nonmarital Births and Paternity Establishment E-News 2014 June
How Unmarried Fathers Support Their Children News Post 2014 March
How Unmarried Fathers Support Their Children: A Study of Unmarried Parents Brief 2014 March
When Dads Commit Kids Benefit News Post 2014 February
About Parental Relationships from the Texas PES Study News Post 2014 February
Fathers in the First Few Months: A Study of Unmarried Fathers and Their Children Brief 2014 February
Why Parents Establish Paternity: A Study of Unmarried Parents Brief 2014 January
Who Establishes Paternity?: A Study of Unmarried Parents Brief 2014 January
Portrait of Father Involvement and Support in the First Three Years after a Nonmarital Birth Report 2013 October
The Importance of Father Involvement Flyer – English 2013 October
La Importancia de un Padre que Participa Flyer – Spanish 2013 October
Child Support and the Military: Efforts to Help Our Heroes Report 2013 October
The PES Study: A Father's First Legal Act of Fatherhood – Establishing Paternity News Post 2013 June
The CAS Study: Increasing Father Involvement Through Paternity Establishment News Post 2013 May
Demographic and Economic Changes in Texas Families CFRP Snapshot 2012 December
Literature Review – Paternity Establishment Lit Review 2012 October
Introduction to Paternity Establishment CFRP Snapshot 2012 August

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