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Why it's important for Texas men to establish paternity

Under Texas law, a child's biological father is not necessarily his or her legal father. When an unmarried couple has a child, the man is not considered the legal father unless the couple completes an Acknowledgement of Paternity.

Some couples wonder why an AOP is necessary if there is no question of paternity. For one thing, a couple's relationship can change. An AOP helps provide security for the baby's future, including health insurance and other benefits as well as child support, regardless of whether the parents are together. Acknowledging paternity also allows the father to enforce his visitation and possession rights.

It's best if an AOP is completed when the baby is born. Texas hospitals have these forms and will take care of sending them to the Bureau of Vital Statistics. By acknowledging paternity immediately, the father's name can be placed on the birth certificate when it is filled out. If the doctors know who the father is, they can get a medical history that may prove crucial to the baby's health.

In some situations, one or both parties refuse to designate that a man is a baby's father. If the man refuses to sign an AOP, the mother should seek legal advice. She may choose to go directly to the Office of the Attorney General. The same choices apply if a man believes he is a child's father, but the mother won't sign the AOP with him.

If a man does not believe he is a child's father, he can take a paternity test at no charge. A court will then determine, based on the test and other factors, if a man is a child's biological father. A father can then be ordered to pay child support.

The Texas Office of the Attorney General has a Paternity Opportunity Program and Child Support Regional Call Centers to help people with questions and issues surrounding paternity and child support. However, if possible, it is best to seek the advice and assistance of a family law attorney who can give your case the personal attention it deserves. In most cases, it's best if the father can be an integral part of a child's life. However, if he can't or won't, he should still provide the child and mother the support they need.

Source: Attorney General of Texas Greg Abbott, "Establishing Paternity" Aug. 04, 2014

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