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What are key points about paternity in Texas?

Some Dallas parents might have concerns when it comes to the establishment of paternity, the identification of biological fathers, child support and other issues. Understanding how to navigate this complex legal matter is imperative, particularly when it is between unmarried parents. Having a grasp of certain facts surrounding paternity is a key to settling these matters.

When parents of a child are married, Texas law dictates that the couple will automatically be deemed the child's legal parents. If, however, the couple is not married, the biological father will not automatically be recognized as a legal parent. To have a legally recognized father, paternity must be established.

There are benefits for the mother, father and child when paternity is legally established. For the mother, the child will have legal rights established with the father; the father will be legally responsible for the child; it is required before there can be an order of child support, custody or visitation; and the child will be eligible to receive benefits from the father. For the father, his name will be placed on the birth certificate; it will establish a legal connection between father and child; he will have the right to provide care to the child; he can request access to medical and school records; and he can request custody, visitation and support.

There are three methods to establish paternity. They are voluntary paternity establishment, agreed paternity order and court-ordered paternity. With the voluntary paternity establishment, the parents will sign a free document, the Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP). This is the easiest and most economical way to establish paternity. The agreed paternity order will have the parents sign a legal agreement, and then have a judge sign it to state the father's identity.

With this, it is required that the parents agree to certain rights regarding child support, custody, visitation and medical care. With court-ordered paternity, the court order will settle the matter if there is a disagreement regarding the identity of the biological father.

Paternity is an important part of a child's life, but there are instances in which there is a dispute from one side or the other, or the identity of the biological father is not readily known. For assistance, with these matters, it is important to have legal help from an attorney experienced in matters related to paternity. That is the first call that should be made to deal with any situation related to this complicated issue.

Source: TexasAttorneyGeneral.gov, "Paternity, Child Support and You," accessed on Dec. 20, 2016

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