Determining paternity in a Texas child support case is the initial, and quite frankly, most important step in the entire case. When it comes to establishing the mother and child relationship, that is much more straightforward. Maternity is either established by a woman giving birth to a child, a court adjudicating that a woman is a mother to a child, or when a woman adopts a child. For the most part, you should not expect maternity to be a contested issue in any child support case that you are potentially involved in or are involved in as a man.
However, if you are reading this blog post, then I am going to assume that you are a man who is here is attempting to position yourself to become the legal father to a child, or you are attempting to establish that you are not the legal father to a child. Either way, a man in Texas can be established to be the legal father to a child by presumption. This frequently occurs when you are married to a woman who gives birth to a child. In that case, the child is presumed to be yours. Alternatively, if a woman you were married to gives birth to a child within 300 days of your divorce, you may also be presumed to be the father of that child. If no other man or the child’s mother does not rebut that presumption, then you are in a position to become the legal parent to that child.
There are also alternative ways for you to become the legal parent and father to a child. One is by effectively acknowledging paternity through an acknowledgment of paternity form. That form can be filled out essentially at any time but most commonly is done at the hospital once your child is born or immediately thereafter. So long as you do not rescind that acknowledgment of paternity by the mother or another person, then you can become the legally declared father to a child through a courtroom proceeding.
Two other ways to become the legal father to a child are by adopting a child or consenting to your wife being impregnated artificially through assisted reproduction methods. By the same token, you could also not be married to a woman, consent to this assisted reproduction method, and then sign in acknowledgment of paternity or go through a courtroom adjudication to be the legally declared father to that child. These are the ways that you may become the legal father to a child.
What are the types of fathers that are involved in family law cases?
We have already utilized some legal terms to discuss the subject matter associated with paternity in Texas family law cases. This is an important subject for child support discussions in that you cannot Be ordered to pay child support before you are also legally determined to be the father of a child. With that said, let’s spend some time discussing what types of fathers are in Texas family law cases to define our terms and be better positioned to understand how all this relates to child support situations that you may become involved in.
A man is the presumed father of a child if he is married to the child’s mother in a child is born during the marriage. This is the typical scenario where your wife gives birth to a child during your marriage period; at that point, absent other information or contests your paternity, you are the presumed father and will be the let go father to the child moving forward. In addition, you could also be the presumed father to a child when you are married to the mother at the child, and the child is born 300 days after your marriage ends either by death, annulment, or divorce. Imagine a scenario where your wife is pregnant during your marriage and gives birth 100 days after your divorce. In this type of situation, you would be presumed to be the father.
Next, you would be the presumed father to a child if you are married to the mother before the child’s birth. This will be a common-law marriage scenario where you were living with the child’s mother, held out to the community that you were married, and engaged in activities that married people do. You would need to be consistently living in the same residence as the child’s mother. Moving in and out of the home would negate one of the elements of not being married in the presumption that you are the father would not exist.
Finally, the last scenario in which you would be the presumed father of a child would be if you married the child’s mother after the child is born and voluntarily acknowledge the paternity of that child. In addition, your acknowledgment of paternity would meet the need to be filed with the Bureau of vital statistics in Austin, need to be named on the child’s birth certificate, and promised to support the child. Come in here and get this to the bullet.
Next, you may be in a situation where you are the alleged father of a child. This is a scenario where you or another person maintains that you are the father to a child despite that being contested. You allege yourself to be or are alleged as the child’s genetic father, but a court has not confirmed that. You cannot establish paternity or create a presumption of paternity by registering with the paternity registry. However, if you do register in a timely fashion, you are entitled to receive notice of any court action that would attempt to terminate your parental rights.
With that said, you may be wondering how you can establish paternity as an alleged father. First, you and the child’s mother can sign an acknowledgment of paternity with an intent to establish paternity in your name. Again, that valid acknowledgment of paternity would need to be filed with the Bureau of vital statistics in Austin. Doing so is the equivalent of going to court and having your paternity adjudicated by a judge. At that point, you would have all the rights and duties to a child just the same as if you had attended court and had a judge determine you to be the father.
Alternatively, both the child’s mother and you can testify in court and ask the court to name you as the child’s father. This is otherwise known as a paternity suit in which you are petitioning the court to be named as that child’s father. It may be and likely is that someone will contest you are being named as the father to the child. It could be that another man is attempting to argue that he is the father of the child or the mother of the child is attempting to deny your paternity.
The typical way that an alleged father becomes a legal father to a child is through genetic testing. The office of the attorney general is frequently the state entity that facilitates genetic testing.
Finally, an acknowledged father is a man who has signed and completed in acknowledgment of the paternity form in the manner described above. By the same token, you could be adjudicated to be the father of a child if you go through a court process to be named as such.
What sort of information is available to mothers and fathers in a paternity circumstance?
The Texas Attorney general’s child support division is the group that helps parents with paternity establishment, child support collection, and enforcement of child support orders. You, a child mother, may have filed a petition to establish paternity to obligate you to pay child support or cash medical support. Many times the office of the attorney general can file a similar lawsuit against you if your child is on public assistance or Medicaid and no one is paying child support. The state does not want your child to be on public benefits and not receive child support or a father’s medical support.
As a father, you may be wondering whether or not it is in your best interests or the child’s best interest to apply for services yourself. The most common reason people go to child support offices is that they are not married to their child’s other parent. In many cases, the two parents were never married. If you find yourself in that position, then any small disagreement between you and your parent may find you both involved in a child support case.
As we just mentioned, part of hey child support case is the need to establish paternity. If you believe that you are the father to a child but are not 100% sure, you should not sign any documents obligating you to conservatorships rights, duties, or child support payment. Rather, it would not be the worst thing in the world for a child support case to be established in which DNA testing is undergone. Once this is done, you will have a clear record of whether or not you are the child’s father. This will remove any future doubt and give you a great deal of Peace of Mind one way or the other.
But wait, you may be saying. What if you already pay some amount of child support each month? I’ve had many clients through the years tell me that they always make it a point to pay child support each month at some level and even contribute diapers, wipes, and other essential items for their child, depending on the child’s age. Aren’t doing things like this enough? By the same token, what if your child’s mother comes to you each month and asks for different amounts based on different needs? Once or twice a year, she may or may only ask you for a few $100 per month, but then she may come back and ask you for a couple of $1000 the following month. Is that a rollercoaster ride that you want to take over and over?
Suppose I was in that position; I certainly would not want to be dirt around in that fashion. Rather, it is a good idea for most people to obtain a formal court order that names you as the legally declared father and establishes a specific amount of child support each month. From your child’s mother’s perspective, it ties you into child support and gives her something to enforce in the future if you stop paying support. By the same token, it prevents your child’s mother from jerking you around each month by asking you to pay differing amounts of child support based on any reason under the sun.
Let’s suppose for a moment that you are the mother to a child. You may be asking yourself, especially if you are doing well and thriving as a single parent, why you want to involve your child’s father in the child-rearing process. After all, if you’ve made it this far and done this well, why should you even bother? The first thing I would tell you is that if your child’s father has been nowhere to be found that establishing a child support case is good for no other reason, then the court will assist in locating him. From there, the court will then work to establish paternity through DNA testing. Then, as we have already discussed, the court can establish a child support order that obligates him to pay you child support at regular intervals.
Just because a judge signs a piece of paper that obligates your child’s father to pay child support does not necessarily mean he will follow the order. However, it is better than nothing to do so. Bear in mind that the potential punishments for violating a court order regarding child support it’s pretty significant. For instance, your child’s father can be ordered 2 go to jail for failing to pay child support, be put on a strict payment plan for repaying child support and be fined for specific violations of your court order. However, if you never go to court in the first place, this cannot happen to you.
He’s necessary they go to court if you file a child support case?
This is a fairly common question that I am a field with some regularity as a family law attorney. The thought of attending court is enough to make even the most diligent person become a little uneasy. With that said, in many cases, you may not have to attend court. Depending on your circumstances and that of your child’s mother, you may be able to take care of all your child support business in a field office for the Child Support division of the office of the attorney general.
Oftentimes, these officers are found in strip malls, shopping centers, and other areas in neighborhoods scattered throughout the city of Houston. If you can reach an agreement about paternity, child support, visitation, or any other issues included in a child custody order, then you can sign all the documents in that office without ever having to step foot in a courtroom. However, it would help if you remembered that you and your child Co-parent need to speak about the issues in a case before going to one of these offices. It is doubtful for you and your Co-parent two to agree on these types of issues in an office setting. Thus, it would help if you spoke about the issues in a more comfortable setting income into one of these offices with the basic agreement in mind.
Closing thoughts on child support and paternity in Texas
Whether you are a mother who is attempting to establish paternity in a man, a father who is trying to contest a paternity case, or a man trying to establish paternity in yourself for a child, you need to have an attorney by your side throughout the process. These are the kind of cases where mistakes can leave an indelible impression on your life and that of a young child. You do not want to be in a position where you make a mistake that costs you the ability to not only establish paternity but begin a life with your child. As such, I recommend working with an experienced family law attorney who has experience in child custody, paternity, and child support matters.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way to learn more about the world of Texas family law and how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.
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Bryan Fagan, a native of Atascocita, Texas, is a dedicated family law attorney inspired by John Grisham’s “The Pelican Brief.” He is the first lawyer in his family, which includes two adopted brothers. Bryan’s commitment to family is personal and professional; he cared for his grandmother with Alzheimer’s while completing his degree and attended the South Texas College of Law at night.
Married with three children, Bryan’s personal experiences enrich his understanding of family dynamics, which is central to his legal practice. He specializes in family law, offering innovative and efficient legal services. A certified member of the College of the State Bar of Texas, Bryan is part of an elite group of legal professionals committed to ongoing education and high-level expertise.
His legal practice covers divorce, custody disputes, property disputes, adoption, paternity, and mediation. Bryan is also experienced in drafting marital property agreements. He leads a team dedicated to complex family law cases and protecting families from false CPS allegations.
Based in Houston, Bryan is active in the Houston Family Law Sector of the Houston Bar Association and various family law groups in Texas. His deep understanding of family values and his professional dedication make him a compassionate advocate for families navigating Texas family law.