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What unwed fathers should know about their parental rights

Unmarried fathers in Texas and elsewhere often face obstacles in attempting to assert their parental rights. There are a few things that they should know that may help the process run a little easier.

Although an unwed father may believe that the relationship between the baby's mother and himself is so good that a need will never arise for court intervention, there is a definite possibility that their relationship may not always be amicable. The dad's best option could be filing a petition that establishes his obligations and rights as the child's father.

An unwed father's signature on the baby's birth certificate is not dispositive of his paternity. He should file an action establishing his paternity so that the court recognizes him as the father of the child. In the event that the child's mother should apply for assistance, whether it is Medicaid, food stamps or some other form of aid, she will be required to disclose the identity of the father. Failure to do so could disqualify her for assistance. If she does disclose it, the state will bring an action against the father in order to ensure that he is providing support as well.

If an unwed father can prove that he provided financial support to his child prior to the issuance of a court order, he can get credit for that support assuming he has kept adequate records. In the absence of proper documentation, the court could deem those prior amounts to be merely gifts.

An unwed father who needs to know what his legal rights and options are regarding his child may be able to benefit from a consultation with a lawyer who is experienced in family law. The attorney may be able to help determine the proper method in which to seek visitation and other parental rights.

Source: ABC, "Five important things that unwed fathers need to know", Yvette Harrell, October 08, 2013

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