Establishing legal paternity has helped millions of children across the U.S. find financial support that otherwise would not have been available. According to the Office of the Attorney General of Texas, on April 23, 2013, 11 parents were arrested for violating court orders to provide child support in Polk County alone. The Texas Attorney General’s Child Support Division worked with local law enforcement across Texas to identify parents who failed to pay child support.

Unmarried couples and paternity

When a child is born to an unmarried couple, the child only has a legal mother, not a legal father. That is because under Texas law, a biological father and a legal father are different. Without establishing paternity, courts cannot order child support to be paid, nor can a presumptive father request visitation or custody of the child.

Unmarried couples can establish paternity immediately after the child’s birth by signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity, which is filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics. The Office of the Attorney General recommends this acknowledgement be signed at the time of birth whenever possible.

Paternity determination benefits the child

Establishing legal fatherhood can benefit everyone involved, but most importantly helps to protect a child’s rights. While parents have both a legal and a moral obligation to provide care for their children, a court can only order a father to pay child support once paternity has been established.

Paternity determination can also provide a child with access to healthcare or government benefits, including Social Security and veteran’s benefits, through the father. A child may also be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits that are designed to assist in the care of a dependent. Also, a child may be entitled to receive inheritance. Furthermore, the OAG notes that children may benefit emotionally and psychologically from knowing the iden tity of their fathers and from having parenting time with both parents.

What establishing legal paternity means for the mother and father

A mother and father can benefit from legal paternity because it opens the door for legal actions. If a father denies parentage, a mother may be able to hold him accountable for child support after establishing paternity. Alternatively, a father can try to secure visitation rights after establishing that he is the biological parent. Establishing paternity is also important if a mother wants to give a child up for adoption, because consent from the biological father is necessary in most cases.

Child support can play a crucial role in the support and development of a child. An experienced family law attorney can help secure legal paternity, and can help assist one parent in taking action to secure that the best interest of the child.