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Instructions & Forms for an Agreed Paternity Case

These instructions explain the basic steps in an agreed paternity case. Each step includes a link to the form or forms needed for that step.

A paternity order says who is (and sometimes who is not) a child’s legal father. A paternity order can include orders for custody, visitation, child support and medical support (although it doesn’t have to).

NOTE: Paternity cases are complicated. It may be better to open a case with the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) or hire a private lawyer, rather than file a paternity case yourself. For information about opening a case with the OAG, call 1-800-255-8014 or go to the OAG’s website: Texas Attorney General Child Support Division.

Have you read the Frequently Asked Questions and related Articles?

These instructions are part of this TexasLawHelp.org toolkit: I need a paternity order. It’s important to read the Frequently Asked Questions and Articles included with the toolkit before getting started.

WARNING! These instructions provide general information, not legal advice. It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your particular situation.

You can print these instructions to use as a checklist.

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Step 1: Know these words.

It’s important to understand these words.

  • Alleged Father - A man who claims, or is claimed to be, the biological father or possible biological father of the child. 
  • Presumed Father - A man who:
    • married to the child’s mother when the child was born; or
    • was married to the child’s mother any time during the 300 days before the child was born; or
    • married the child’s mother after the child was born and voluntarily claimed paternity of the child with the vital statistics unit, on the child’s birth certificate, or in a record in which he promised to support the child as his own; or
    • during the first two years of the child’s life, continuously lived with the child and represented to others that the child was his own.
  • Acknowledged Father - A man who signed a valid Acknowledgment of Paternity claiming to be the father of a child. To be valid, the Acknowledgment of Paternity must also have been signed by the child’s mother (and presumed father, if applicable) and filed with the Vital Statistics Unit.
  • Adjudicated Father - A man named as the father of a child in a court order.
  • Acknowledgment of Paternity - A legal form signed by a child’s mother and biological father (and presumed father, if applicable) to establish paternity of the child.  When the form is filed with the Vital Statistics Unit, the biological father becomes the child’s legal father.
  • Denial of Paternity - A legal form signed by a presumed father to swear that he is not the child’s biological father. To be valid, the child’s biological father and mother must also sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity.
  • Vital Statistics Unit - State office responsible for birth certificates. For more information visit their website at http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/vs/default.shtm or call them at 1-888-963-7111.
Step 2: Make sure you can file the case.

The law only allows the following people to file a paternity case for a minor child:

  • the child’s mother; or
  • if the child’s mother has died, then the mother’s parent, grandparent, sibling, or child; or
  • a man who thinks he may be the father; or
  • a man presumed to be the father, asking the court to order that he’s not the father; or
  • the child; or
  • a person who is the intended parent in an approved gestational agreement.

A governmental agency, adoption agency, or authorized representative may also file a court case to establish paternity of a minor child.

If the child is an adult, then a paternity case may only be filed by the adult child.

If the law allows you to file a paternity case, go to Step 3. If you’re not sure, talk with a lawyer.

Step 3: Make sure the court has jurisdiction over the alleged father and the child.

If you’re asking the court to establish paternity, the court must have jurisdiction over the man alleged to be the child’s father. A Texas court has jurisdiction over an alleged father if:

  • the alleged father agrees and files written papers in the case; or
  • the alleged father is personally served in Texas with legal notice of the paternity case; or
  • the alleged father lived in Texas with the child at some time; or
  • the alleged father lived in Texas and paid prenatal expenses for the child; or
  • the alleged father had sexual intercourse in Texas which led to the child’s conception; or
  • the child lives in Texas because of something the alleged father did; or
  • the child was born in Texas and the alleged father registered with the paternity registry maintained by the Texas Vital Statistics Unit or signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity filed with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit

If you’re also asking the court to make orders about custody and visitation, the court must also have jurisdiction over the child. Generally, a Texas court will only have jurisdiction over a child if the child has lived in Texas for at least the past 6 months or since birth for an infant.

If the court has jurisdiction over both the alleged father and the child, go to Step 4. If you’re not sure, talk with a lawyer.

Step 4: Determine if there is a deadline to file the case.

The law limits when a paternity case may be filed if the child already has a presumed, acknowledged or adjudicated father.

  • If the child does not have a presumed, acknowledged or adjudicated father, there is no deadline. A paternity case may be filed at any time. (However, after the child turns 18, only the child may file.)
  • If the child has a presumed father, you must file a paternity case before the child turns 4, unless:
  1. you are the presumed father and you didn’t file the paternity case before the child turned 4 because you were mislead into believing that you were the biological father or
  2. the presumed father and mother did not live together or engage in sexual intercourse with each other during the time the child was conceived.
  • If the child has an acknowledged father, you can file a paternity case only if you didn’t sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity (or any accompanying Denial of Paternity) and:
  1. it has been less than 4 years since the effective date of the Acknowledgment or
  2. the Acknowledgment is void.
  • If the child has an adjudicated father, you can file a paternity case only if:
  1. you were not a party in the court case that named the father of the child and
  2. it has been less than 4 years since the effective date of the court order naming the father of the child.

If there is no deadline to file (because the child does not have a presumed, acknowledged or adjudicated father) or the deadline has not passed, go to Step 5. If you’re not sure, talk with a lawyer.

Step 5: Fill out the court forms.

Fill out this starting form:

You will file the Petition with the court to start the case. It tells the judge and the other people involved what orders you want the judge to make. The Frequently Asked Questions and related Articles included with these instructions will help you understand your options.

When you fill out the Petition:

  • Print your answers clearly in blue or black ink.
  • Do not leave blanks (unless instructed to do so).
  • Talk to a lawyer if you have questions or need help.

Who is the petitioner? You are the petitioner – the person asking the court to make a paternity order.

Who must be listed as a respondent? The following people must be included in a paternity case:

  • the child’s mother; and
  • all alleged fathers; and
  • any presumed, acknowledged or adjudicated fathers; and
  • anyone with a court-ordered relationship with the child.

Note: The Petition asks for your address. Each respondent will get a copy of your Petition. If you are concerned about a respondent knowing your address, call the Family Violence Legal Line at 1-800-374-4673 for free advice.

Fill out these additional starting forms if required for your case:

Fill out this ending form:

You will ask the judge to sign this form when it’s time to finish your case. Fill it out completely (except for the signatures). You and the other party or parties may want to fill out the order form together. But don’t sign the order form until you get to Step 10.

If you asked the judge to make custody, visitation, child support and medical support orders, you must also fill out these ending forms and attach them to the Order Adjudicating Parentage form.

Fill out this additional ending form if child support will be ordered:

Step 6: Have your forms reviewed (if possible).

Although not required, it’s a good idea to have a family law lawyer review your completed forms. Family law lawyers specialize in cases involving families, such as paternity cases.

You can hire a family law lawyer just to review your forms. Hiring a lawyer for a limited purpose is called “limited scope representation.” You can then finish your case yourself. You may also be able to talk with a lawyer for free at a legal clinic. If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:

Step 7: Make copies of your starting forms.

Make enough copies of these completed starting forms for you and each respondent to have one copy of each form:

  • Petition to Adjudicate Parentage
  • Exhibit: Out-of-State Party Declaration (if required for your case)
  • Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Courts (if required for your case)
Step 8: File (turn in) your starting forms.

File (turn in) your completed Petition and other starting forms with the court in the county where the child lives.

  • To file your forms online, go to E-File Texas and follow the instructions.
  • To file your forms in person, take your Petition and additional starting forms (and copies) to the district clerk’s office in the county where the child lives.

At the clerk’s office:

  • Turn in your Petition and other starting forms (and copies).
  • Pay the filing fee (or file your completed Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs if you cannot afford the fee).
  • Ask the clerk if there is a local standing order that you need to follow or attach to your Petition.
  • Ask the clerk if there are local rules or procedures you need to know about for your case.
  • The clerk will write your “Cause Number” and “Court Number” at the top of the first page of your Petition. (Write these numbers at the top of any document you file in your case.)
  • The clerk will “file-stamp” your copies with the date and time. The clerk will keep the original and return your copies.
Step 9: Notify the Office of the Attorney General (if applicable).

Has the child ever received TANF or Medicaid?

  • If NO, skip this step.
  • If YES, you must send a file-stamped copy of your Petition to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) Child Support Division.
    • Send By Email – You can scan a file-stamped copy of your Petition and email it. Find the email address for the OAG child support office in the county where your case is filed here: Email Addresses for Child Support Offices. Write the cause number and the county where you filed your case in the subject line of the email. Print a copy of your email. Bring it with you when it’s time to finish your case.
    • Send By Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested – Or, you can mail a copy of your Petition by certified mail return receipt requested. The post office has the forms for certified mail return receipt requested. Find the mailing address for the OAG child support office in the county where your case is filed here: Mailing Addresses for Child Support Offices. The post office will give you a receipt when you mail the Petition. Someone at the OAG child support office will sign the return receipt (often called the “green card”) and mail it back to you. Bring the receipt and the return receipt (green card) with you when it’s time to finish your case.
Step 10: Ask each respondent to fill out and sign court forms.

Give each respondent:

  • a file-stamped copy of your Petition to Adjudicate Parentage, and
  • a blank Waiver of Service Only form, and
  • a blank Respondent’s Original Answer form, and 
  • a completed Order Adjudicating Parentage form (with completed custody, possession, child support and medical support orders attached if applicable).

WARNING! Do not hand-deliver any papers to a respondent if there has been violence during your relationship, especially if a judge has signed a Protective Order. You can have the respondent served instead. If you decide to have the respondent served, use these instructions: Instructions & Forms for a Default Paternity Case.

Ask each respondent to complete these three steps:

  1. Fill out and sign the Waiver of Service Only form - OR – the Respondent’s Original Answer form

Each respondent can fill out and sign either form.  

The Waiver of Service Only form must be signed in front of a notary. If a respondent plans to sign the Waiver of Service Only form, tell the respondent to sign it in front of a notary at least one day after you filed the Petition. Otherwise the respondent will have to redo it.

The Respondent’s Original Answer form does not have to be signed in front of a notary.

Note: If any respondent will not fill out and sign a Respondent’s Original Answer form or Waiver of Service Only form, you must have that respondent served by a constable, sheriff or private process server. Use these instructions instead: Instructions & Forms for a Default Paternity Case.

  1. Sign the completed Order Adjudicating Parentage form (with completed custody, possession, child support and medical support orders attached if applicable).

The Order Adjudicating Parentage form must be completely filled out when each respondent signs it. You CANNOT make changes to the order form after it has been signed by a respondent unless the respondent initials each change.

  1. Return the signed forms to you.

You should also:

  • Sign the Order Adjudicating Parentage form.
  • Make a copy of the Waiver of Service Only form or Respondent’s Original Answer form that was filled out and signed by each respondent.
Step 11: Go to court to finish your case.

If each respondent has filled out and signed the Respondent’s Original Answer form or Waiver of Service Only form and signed your completed Order Adjudicating Parentage form, you can go to court to finish your agreed paternity case.

  • Call the clerk’s office to learn when and where the court hears uncontested cases.

Note: If you had to send a copy of your Petition to the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division (because the child has received Medicaid or TANF), ask the clerk if the child support office has filed anything in your case. If yes and a hearing has been set, you must go to the hearing. If yes and a hearing has not been set, you must take your completed Order Adjudicating Parentage form to the child support office and ask for a lawyer there to review it and sign it (if they agree with it). If the child support office will not sign your completed Order Adjudicating Parentage form, your case is contested. To finish a contested case, you must set a contested final hearing. You must give the child support office and each respondent at least 45 days’ notice of the final hearing. Read this article to learn more: How to Set a Contested Final Hearing (Family Law). It’s always best to have a lawyer if your case is contested.

  • Read the article TIPS for the Courtroom for more information about going to Court.
  • Bring these papers with you to the courthouse on the day you plan to finish your case:
    • a file-stamped copy of your Petition to Adjudicate Parentage; and
    • the Waiver of Service Only or Respondent’s Original Answer form signed by each respondent; and
    • a completed Order Adjudicating Parentage (with completed custody, possession, child support and medical support orders attached if applicable) signed by you and each respondent; and  
    • a completed Income Withholding Order for Support if child support will be ordered; and
    • genetic testing results (if applicable); and
    • proof that you sent a copy of your Petition to the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division (if required). See Step 9.
  • When you get to the courthouse, go to the clerk’s office.
    • File (turn in) the Waiver of Service Only or Respondent’s Original Answer form that was filled out and signed by each respondent. Ask the clerk to file stamp your copy. Bring your file-stamped copy with you to court.
    • Ask the clerk if you need the court file or docket sheet (list of what has been filed in your case).
  • When you get to the courtroom, tell the clerk you are there and give the clerk your paperwork. Sit down until the judge calls your case.
  • When the judge calls your case, walk to the front of the courtroom and stand in front of the judge’s bench. The judge will have you raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth. Be prepared to quickly tell the judge: who you are, how you are related to the child, what orders you are asking the judge to make and why those orders would be in the child's best interest. It’s a good idea to write down everything you want to say so you can read it to the judge if you get nervous.
  • The judge will listen to what you say and review your papers. If everything is in order the judge will sign your Order Adjudicating Parentage.
Step 12: File (turn in) the signed order or orders.

After the judge signs your Order Adjudicating Parentage, go back to the clerk’s office.

  • File (turn in) the signed Order Adjudicating Parentage and any other orders signed by the judge. Your case is NOT final until you do so.
  • Get a certified copy of your Order Adjudicating Parentage and any other orders signed by the judge from the clerk while you are there. The clerk may charge a fee for the certified copies. 
  • If child support was ordered:
    • ask the clerk what you need to do to set up a child support account, and
    • ask the clerk to send a copy of the Income Withholding Order for Support to the employer of the parent ordered to pay child support.
Step 13: After your case is finished.

Send a file-stamped copy of the Order Adjudicating Parentage and any other orders signed by the judge to each respondent.

  • If you were ordered to pay child support and/or cash medical support, learn about payment options here: Texas Attorney General - Child Support Payment Options. If you have any questions, call the Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division at 1-800-252-8014. DO NOT send child support payments directly to the other parent.
  • If a respondent was ordered to pay child support and/or medical support to you and doesn’t pay, contact the Texas Attorney General Child Support Division for help enforcing your order.