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Why is paternity important?

In Texas, paternity means that a child has a legal father. Unlike married couples, a child born to unmarried parents does not have a recognized biological father. This means that an unmarried biological father does not have legal rights to the child until paternity is established and he becomes a legal parent.

Paternity has many benefits. First, the child has a legal connection to their father. The child's birth certificate can contain the father's legal name.

Paternity is required before a court can order child support, health care coverage, possession, conservatorship or financial medical support. It is also necessary before seeking custody or parenting time.

Paternity protects a child's rights to the father's benefits such as death benefit or an inheritance after the father dies. It can be very important for the child's health because it allows access to the medical history of the father's family.

Paternity may be established through marriage if the husband is the biological father. The father is automatically considered as the legal father and no other action is needed.

The second way to establish paternity is when the father and the mother sign an acknowledgment of paternity form. Both parties however, must agree that he is the biological father.

The final method is when unmarried parents receive a court order naming the legal father. Either parent can seek this order by filing a court suit.

If both parents agree on paternity when they seek a court order, they can request a DNA test and execute an agreed order. A DNA test is accurate, simple and determines whether the man is the biological father.

If the parents disagree, a paternity petition may be filed asking the court to name the alleged father as the legal father and decide paternity. The court may order DNA testing for this petition or if a man disputes that he is the biological father.

An attorney can help parents in this complicated process. They can help assure that their rights and the child's interests are protected.

Source: TXACCESS.ORG, "What is paternity?" Accessed Nov. 26, 2017

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