In Texas, a child born to an unmarried couple has no legal father until paternity is established. One job of the state attorney general’s Child Support Division is to establish paternity so that legal fatherhood is guaranteed, allowing the child to be eligible for state benefits such as child support and health insurance and federal benefits such as Social Security and veteran’s survivor benefits.
Establishing legal paternity is important also for the parents. It ensures the father’s rights as a parent if the couple separates. Further, when paternity is established, the father’s name will be put on the birth certificate. This will provide legal protections for the child throughout his or her life.
One useful method of establishing paternity is the signing of a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity document. The best time to sign is normally right after a child is born. This is frequently at the hospital of birth, where parents are likely to be together and welcoming their newborn. Both parents are more likely to be truthful about paternity then. The process of securing legal paternity and having the certified copy of AOP can provide both parents with feelings of security and peace of mind. Both parents are likely to understand that a firm foundation has been established for the child. If one or both parents ever dies or is otherwise unable to operate in the capacity of a parent, the child will be entitled to state benefits that will provide some security.
A child’s birth is one of the happiest events in the lives of many couples. It is also an event that demands a responsible approach by both new parents. The assistance of an experienced family law attorney can help them with paternity and with child support if necessary.