A child does not have a legal father until both parents establish paternity, which impacts what benefits and protections he or she can receive. Also, without legally establishing paternity, unmarried fathers have no rights or responsibilities to their children. CFRP explores the impacts and outcomes associated with establishing and not establishing paternity on the lives of children, mothers, and fathers.
Paternity establishment is linked to higher levels of subsequent paternal involvement and support, as well as a host of positive child outcomes. The signing of a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity is an unmarried 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. 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. CFRP has developed a body of rigorous research on paternity establishment in Texas, looking into: the prenatal and parental factors that affect in‐hospital paternity establishment at the time of the child’s birth, the timing of when unmarried parents are most receptive to messages about paternity establishment, the association between in‐hospital paternity establishment and subsequent child support compliance or use of informal support, whether a father’s understanding of the paternity establishment process affects his future involvement with his child and compliance with child support, and the underlying motivations prompting paternity rescission filings.