Challenging Paternity in Texas Courts
Fatherhood is an honor and a joy. However, if the child is not yours, paternity creates an unfair, burdensome obligation to pay child support. What should you do if you are named as the father of a child you don’t believe is yours?
Importantly, do not wait to challenge paternity. The longer you wait, the more difficult your case becomes. Also, even if you are ultimately found not to be the father, you may be liable for child support until a court order relieves you of the obligation. Unless you have good reason for your delay, the court may order you to continue supporting a child that DNA evidence proved was not yours. Finally, the delay in establishing the real father can have unintended repercussions for the child. The child may form a paternal bond with you or your child may be denied crucial financial assistance from the biological father.
Paternity By Presumption
You are presumed to be the father if you are married to the mother or were married to her more than 300 days before your child’s birth. You can rebut this presumption by demonstrating that you did not have sexual relations with the mother during the period of conception or by submitting to a genetic test. The biological father may also acknowledge paternity at the time you rebut the presumption.
Although the statute of limitations is generally four years, a 2011 Texas law may permit you to challenge the presumption at any time in the child’s life. In the past, you would have been required to continue paying child support regardless of whether you were conclusively found to be the father. Texas Senate Bill 785 provides relief to men who were misled into accepting paternity.
Paternity By Acknowledgment
Paternity by acknowledgment occurred if you and the mother signed a document affirming that you are the father. You may have had good intentions to step up to the plate and take care of your child only to later learn you are in fact not the father. You can rescind the document within 60 days or upon a showing of fraud, duress or mistake.
DNA Testing of Paternity
DNA testing involves the painless gathering of cells from the child, mother and presumed father using cotton swabs. DNA testing of the material accurately determines whether you are the father. You and the mother may submit to the test voluntarily or the court may order DNA testing in response to either party’s petition. If the DNA test is conducted right away, the court may never order you to pay child support or may immediately terminate such obligation.
Texas Senate Bill 785
Texas Senate Bill 785 amended the Texas Family Code to allow you to challenge the parent-child relationship if you mistakenly believed you were the biological father based upon misleading information or misrepresentation. The law applies if you signed an acknowledgment of paternity or if you were adjudicated to be the father without first getting a DNA test. You must file within one year from the date you learn about the relevant facts.
Our Dallas paternity attorney Michael P Granata can assess your situation and help you exercise your legal options. For more information about challenging paternity, contact the firm today at (214) 977-9050.