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Texas offers services to help fathers be better dads

Families across Texas will be celebrating Father's Day this Sunday, perhaps with a barbecue, gifts or just a phone call, if dad lives out of state. For divorced dads especially, the occasion often serves as a reminder of the importance of having a good relationship with their children. But it doesn't always come naturally. A lack of experience or legal disputes over child support and paternity can put a lot of strain on fathers and prevent them from enjoying all the benefits of fatherhood.

Last year the state Child Support Division collected $3.1 billion in child support, mostly from dads. In exchange, the CSD offers programs and guidance for Texas fathers struggling to financially support their children or maintain a strong bond with them.

One resource for fathers is the Paternity Opportunity Program, which allows unmarried fathers to acknowledge their children's paternity at the time they're born. By establishing legal paternity right at birth, fathers are better able to establish and maintain a good relationship with them. They can do this by following the POP's Acknowledgement of Paternity process.

Once you've established paternity, it's time to learn the basics of raising children. The Texas Office of the Attorney General offers a handbook and DVD for new dads that offers information on everything from prenatal visits to "baby-proofing" a home. For young adult fathers, the OAG has a program called Parenting and Paternity Awareness, whose curriculum centers on the "rights, responsibilities and realities" of parenting. Dads in this program can learn everything they need to know about paternity, child support and all of the financial and emotional challenges single parenting holds.

If you're a single dad, a new father or one who wants better access to his children, you might also benefit from talking with a family law attorney who can offer resources and legal counsel to help you improve your relationship with your kids.

Source: Texas Insider, "Happy Father's Day!" Greg Abbott, June 13, 2012

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