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What is the importance of establishing paternity in Texas?

Legally establishing paternity serves a number of different functions for fathers, families and children. Paternity is not only used for child support purposes but can be important in circumstances when the father of a child dies, becomes disabled or in other circumstances. It is also helpful for children to have access to familial medical history or certain benefits establishing paternity can provide. In addition, children are entitled to receive financial assistance from their parents and it is important that they receive the support they need.

Legally establishing paternity not only impacts child support, as both parents have an obligation to financially and emotionally support their children, but also impacts child custody and visitation. It is presumed that both parents have the right to custody and visitation of the child. Parents have the ability to reach child custody and visitation agreements together but if they become engaged in disputes, and are unable to agree, the court can determine child custody and visitation based on what is in the best interests of the child.

Paternity can be established different ways in Texas. The parents of the child can voluntarily establish paternity by properly filing an Acknowledgment of Paternity signed by both parents. An Acknowledgement of Paternity can be completed prior to the child's birth or following the child's birth. In some circumstances, paternity may be presumed but a process for denying paternity is also available. In addition, a paternity test can be requested and the court can determine paternity that way.

Child support, child custody and other important concerns for families all ride on legally establishing paternity. Because paternity is important for fathers, children and families, the family law system provides options to establish paternity in that parents should be familiar with, as well as how to take advantage of the resources available for the benefit of their children.

Source: The Attorney General of Texas, "Frequently Asked Questions," Accessed June 7, 2016

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