Texas Family Law Courts: Paternity Suits

If it is unknown who the biological father of your child is, a paternity suit may be filed in order to make a legal determination of parentage. The reason that this type of family lawsuit may be filed is to not only create a legal relationship between parent and child but to also create orders related to child support, visitation and conservatorship over the child.

The persons that are able to file a paternity lawsuit in Texas include:

  1. The child him or herself
  2. The mother of the child
  3. The potential father whose paternity is to be determined in the lawsuit
  4. If the mother is deceased a relative within the second degree of consanguinity
  5. A government agency
  6. A child placement or adoption agency
  7. A representative for any deceased party that would ordinarily be able to file a paternity suit
  8. An intended parent of the child

Who can be a presumed father?

A man who is recognized to be the father of a child is a presumed father in the context of a paternity suit in Texas. Their status as a presumed father can either be confirmed by a paternity suit or rebutted depending on the results of the lawsuit.

For instance, if you are a man who is married to the mother of the child at the time of the child’s birth or if you are married to the mother of the child and the child was born before the 301st day after the date the marriage ended due to divorce then you are the presumed father of the child.

Another method to become the presumed father of a child is if you married the mother after the child was born and you voluntarily acknowledged paternity of the child. The following circumstances must also be in place:

  1. You must file an assertion of parentage with the State Vital Statistics Office
  2. You were voluntarily put on the child’s birth certificate as the child’s father, or
  3. You promised in writing to support the child as your own son or daughter

There is also a way that you can become the presumed father of a child by default. If during the first two years of the child’s life you reside with the child continually and represent to other people that you are the father of the child then you can become a presumed father. This is somewhat akin to becoming a “common-law” father.

How you are determined to be an acknowledged father?

If you claim to be the father of a child and have signed an acknowledgment of paternity along with the mother of the child you are now an acknowledged father in the eyes of the law. This form is filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics and is a sworn affirmation that you are the biological father of the child. Instead of having to go through a paternity lawsuit, this document adjudicates you as the father without going through a formal legal process to have a judge make a decision as to who the father of the child is.

How soon can a paternity suit be filed in Texas?

Any time before the birth of the child a paternity suit may be filed in Texas. However, if there is no acknowledged or adjudicated father in the picture then the paternity suit may be filed at any point in time. On the other hand, if the child has a presumed father then the lawsuit must be filed prior to the child’s fourth birthday. An exception to this four year requirement comes into play if the court determines that the presumed father and mother did not reside together or have sexual relations with one another during the likely time period in which the child was conceived. Likewise, if you as the presumed father mistakenly believed that the child was not yours due to misrepresentations made by either the mother or another person then the four year lime limit does not apply either.

You’ve filed a paternity suit- what happens next?

A genetic test will be ordered by the judge in your case. The costs for the testing will likely be split evenly between you and the other party. If your lawsuit was filed prior to the birth of the child the judge will wait until the child is born to order genetic testing of the baby.

The samples will be sent to a lab to have a report written for the judge to review. Right away the case will be dismissed in the event that the man who was tested is determined not to be the father of the child. In the event that the testing shows the man to be the father with 99% or greater probability the judge will rule that he is indeed the newly adjudicated father of the child.

Once there is an adjudicated father in place the court is able to determine visitation, support and custody of the child in relation to mother and father. Of course, if at that point the mother and father can come to an agreement on these issues the court will defer to the decisions made by the parties. So long as the best interests of the child are protected by any settlement agreement then the court will approve an order based on either a mediated settlement agreement or an informal settlement agreement.

Questions on paternity suits in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today

If you believe that a paternity suit will be necessary for you and your child please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Likewise, if you believe yourself to be the father of a child it is critical to speak to an attorney to learn more about your rights. A consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys is free of charge and is available six days a week. We represent clients across southeast Texas and would be honored to do the same for you and your family.

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