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What to do if you just found out you are a father

If you are a father to a child born out of wedlock, you can face many challenges to building a meaningful, ongoing relationship with your child. For instance, some dads only learn that they are parents months or even years after the birth of their children. This knowledge often comes in the form of a court order for support for these children, either generated by their mothers or by governmental agencies involved with the families.

That can be jarring, to say the least. Instead of the happy anticipation of their children's births, these fathers have been denied that, as well as the right to bond with the babies soon after they are born.

Texas is proactive about involving dads in their kids' lives

Unlike many other states, in Texas, when a parent seeks child support, there is an accompanying parenting time order issued by the court. Since the '80s, the Texas Attorney General's office has issued these standard orders which split the time spent with the child between the two parents.

However, parents can determine their own custody schedule that is then approved by the courts.

This is a boon for unmarried dads, especially those earning lower wages and salaries. After paying court costs and attorneys' fees and catching up with their child support, these fathers may not have the means to return to court to seek parenting time with their offspring.

If you just learned you have a child

Suppose that you just got served a child support order for a 2-year-old daughter you never knew that you had. After you get over the shock, it's time to be practical.

Your first order of business is to definitively determine that the child is yours. This is done via a DNA test. Once paternity has been established, you will likely be eager to get to know your son or daughter.

The courts aren't going to immediately order 50-50 possession of a child to a father who has never even seen his daughter before. So, you and your attorney can devise a plan where you are introduced gradually to your daughter. Once she begins to feel comfortable with you, your parenting time can be incrementally increased.

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