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Answers to commonly asked questions about paternity

Looking up "paternity" in the dictionary offers no surprises. According to Cambridge, it is "the fact or state of being a father." Anyone in Texas who is, in fact, a father will know there is a lot more to it than the dictionary writer indicated.

New dads may have a lot of questions about the legality of their role, especially if they are not married to the baby's mom. The Texas Attorney General has provided a list of frequently asked questions to help men who find themselves in this situation. 

First, it is important to note that parents can establish paternity voluntarily by signing an Acknowledge of Paternity. Both the mother and father must sign the AOP if they wish to declare themselves the legal parents of the child. If they are unsure who the dad is, they should wait and let the courts decide how to proceed. A local child support office can help fathers decide when and where to sign the document.

How does acknowledging paternity help the family? In addition to providing emotional support and a sense of identity to his child, the dad establishes a claim on visitation and custody rights by accepting legal responsibility for the little one. Ideally, the parents can work out these matters through mutual agreement, but the courts stand ready to assist if the two are unable to agree.

A supportive dad who already contributes financially to his children's upbringing may think establishing paternity is unnecessary. However, the Texas Attorney General reminds fathers that in order to give the kids access to medical and life insurance as well as other benefits, he will have to be their legal father. 

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