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Can I refuse a court-ordered paternity test?

The most common way for you to acknowledge paternity of a child in Texas is to fill out an Acknowledgment of Paternity. This form can be obtained from the State of Texas or from the hospital where your child is born. If you complete the form and so does the mother of your child, then that is all you need to do to establish paternity for your child. You would be not only the biological father to your child but also the established and legal father to him. This means you would have rights and duties associated with your child in addition to the ability to ask a court for visitation, possession, access, and other conservatorship rights, as well. 

This is known as a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. Nobody is forcing you to acknowledge that you are the father to this child. However, you would like to declare that you are his father and are ready to take on the responsibilities that come with this status. There are rights but also duties to raising a child. Part of that is the financial duties as far as contributing to your child's life. Food, clothing, shelter, health insurance- the list goes on and on. However, this was your decision to make and you went ahead and acknowledged paternity. With the child’s mother also acknowledging your paternity there is nothing left to do but be a part of your child’s life. 

However, you must also consider a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity is not the only outcome that could come out of a paternity situation. Rather, there is an opportunity for your child's mother to disagree that you are the father. She does not have to complete an acknowledgment to state that you are the child's father. She may disagree and refuse to do so. Or, she may complete an acknowledgment of paternity and instead list another man as the father. Now you are in a position where instead of an easy path towards legal fatherhood you are facing a situation where you will have to fight to be named as the legal father. Establishing paternity isn’t so easy when you and the mother don’t agree!

What if you and the mother disagree on paternity?

If you and the child's mother disagree one way or the other on the paternity of the child, then you are at a stage of the case where you would need to be able to contact an attorney for assistance. If you believe that you are the father to the child, then you do not have time to waste. Being the biological father most likely means that you will end up being the legal father for reasons that we will get into in a moment, but for now, just know that there are situations occasionally, that come up where a biological father is not named the legal father to a child. This would be a heartbreaking and incredibly painful reality for you to have on your hands. 

There is a process involved when it comes to establishing paternity in a situation where you and the child’s mother do not agree on this subject. Just because you are meeting some resistance on the part of your child’s mother does not mean that you should back down or otherwise not move forward with attempting to establish paternity. Rather, you must remember that you can’t always please everyone and the truth of the situation is that your child’s life will be better off with you in it. You are having confidence in moving forward with a paternity case that is in the best interests of your child. 

DNA Testing and its role in determining paternity

If you believe that you are the father of a child, and the mother disagrees with you then there is a route that you can take to establish yourself as the father in a legal sense. First, you would need to file a petition to adjudicate paternity. This would be the formal court process where you would throw your hat into the ring as a father candidate for your child. It may be odd to think you need to go ahead and petition for paternity of a child that is yours but that is what happens in many children custody circumstances in Texas. 

The reason why this is true is that unless you and your child’s mother are married when your child is born there is no legal presumption that you are the child’s father. If you are married to the child’s mother at the time of his birth, then no additional action needs to be taken as you will be presumed to be that boy’s father. As a result, your name would go on the birth certificate, and everyone could go about their lives and need do nothing more as far as establishing paternity is concerned. 

However, if you are not married to the child's mother at the time the child is born it is an entirely different situation altogether. In that case, you would need to follow through with the steps that we discussed earlier as far as petitioning for paternity, taking a DNA test likely, and having to go through a court to walk away with paternity rights. That is a much less desirable road to go down, but it is the reality for many men in Texas. Do not underestimate what can happen in one of these cases where your parental rights may never be established if you do not have an experienced attorney working by your side. 

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to assist you in your paternity case. If you are attempting to win paternity rights to a child, then you need all the help you can get. This is a situation where you need to get the case right the first time. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan stand ready and willing to help you move into the next phase of your paternity case. If you believe that you are the father to a child, you can come forward and discuss this with one of our experienced family law attorneys.

We offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week: in person at one of our three Houston area offices, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as to learn what may happen to you and the kids if a divorce, child custody, or paternity lawsuit is filed. 

DNA Testing in a Paternity Test

Unless there is an agreement between you and your child's mother that you are the father, the next step after you file a petition to adjudicate parentage is for a court to order DNA testing. This DNA testing could happen in the courtroom during a recess from the hearing or you may be ordered to visit the clinic or lab of the DNA testing people. Either way, if you file a petition to establish paternity DNA testing is likely going to be a part of that process.

Importantly, if the court orders you and your co-parent to undergo DNA testing then you do not have an option: you must attend the hearing and have the inside of your cheek swabbed to conduct the DNA test. The test itself is that easy to administer and an answer can be had in a relatively short period to tell you whether you are the father to the child in question. While these DNA tests are not perfect, they are more often right than not- to the tune of over 90% accuracy. 

Let's suppose that you are a man who knows that you are not the father to a child. You dated the woman in question years ago but had not been with her nor even physically close to her for many years. Now she is alleging that you are the father to her baby. This caught you by surprise when you were handed a notice of a hearing for paternity. Now that you also found out that DNA testing is going to be a part of the case you are having second thoughts about attending. What is it like to be DNA tested, you wonder? Will it hurt? Will the test take a long time to complete? 

So, instead of taking the test and attending the hearing you just crumble up the paperwork and decide to stay away from the hearing altogether. You know that you aren’t the father, and you know that she knows you aren’t the father. Besides- you have to work that day and don’t want to get in trouble with the new boss. You don’t think anything of not attending the hearing and refusing to take the DNA test. 

However, you should understand that it is illegal to refuse to take a DNA test for paternity purposes. The child's mother would submit a sample of the child's DNA and you would be ordered to attend a hearing and show up to a specific location to swab your cheek and submit a DNA sample of your own to be tested. Even if you know that you are not the father to this child you must still comply with the order. You are breaking the law by not doing so which opens you up to penalties handed down by a judge including jail time. Contempt of court is what you can be held in. This means that you would be found to have violated the court orders of a judge. Serious business for missing a DNA test. 

Why is it important to establish paternity?

On a practical level, if a mother to the child is attempting to get child support established, a father must first be determined. To do this, a petition to adjudicate paternity would need to be filed and then a DNA test ordered. Once the court is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence on the record to decide on paternity it would declare you or any other man for that matter to be the father of this child. Sadly, in some situations, there is serious doubt as to who the father is of a particular child. Filing a petition to adjudicate parentage can help to figure this out and get additional child custody orders in place including ones for child support.

However, there are other reasons why it is important to establish paternity for a child and their family. Let's walk through some of those reasons here as we close out today's blog post. First, across the board, it is believed that children benefit from being able to have a relationship with both of their parents. Both you and your co-parent have something to offer your child in terms of their personality, your work ethic, your approach to different situations, and the list goes on and on. Your co-parent cannot duplicate what you would bring to the table as far as raising your children. 

With that said, you have a unique opportunity to make a humongous impact on another person’s life as a parent. This is not an opportunity that you can take advantage of as a man if you are not adjudicated to be the father of that child. You would have no right, legally speaking, to spend time with the child or make decisions on their behalf. You would be the same to that child in the eyes of the law as me or any other man. Establishing paternity is your ticket to avoiding that type of situation and putting yourself in a position to be able to parent your child moving forward. 

Something that many people do not consider at first but are nonetheless very important is that by being a parent to your child you will have an opportunity to talk to him or her about your medical history. Why is this important? You can make sure that your child and their doctor are aware of any conditions that are chronic or genetic for your family that your child should be tested for, guarded against, or anything in between. Without you, in the picture, your child would not have the benefit of knowing more about you or your history. A missed diagnosis can shorten the life of your child without them even knowing it. 

By establishing parentage, you also allow your child to be able to take advantage of inheritance and benefits in your name when you pass away. If you pass away and your child is under the age of 18 there are survivor benefits through Social Security that you can pass on to them. Payment of benefits can go to your co-parent for their benefit were you to pass away while they are children. That money can be used for any purpose including saving for college, paying for day-to-day expenses now, and a host of other considerations. 

Additionally, even if you die without a will a probate court judge would apply the probate code when it comes to inheriting property and your child would figure prominently in that discussion. Unless you were to draft a will and specifically leave certain property to this child (which you absolutely could do) then the probate code would not help this child. There would be no way that the child could inherit property from you were you to not have a will. So the lesson here could be that you should draft a will but an even more important lesson is that you should establish paternity to your child in your name at the first possible opportunity to do so. 

If you are a mother reading this blog post, then you may like the idea of not having a co-parent in the picture. Why have someone who is occasionally unreliable and does not want to put in the work to raise a child in your life? You've been doing just fine parenting as a single parent to this stage and are not asking for any help. That is where you should stop for a moment and consider your life and that of your child now and in the future. What may be true for you now probably will not be exactly true in the future. 

It is nice to have two parents on board to raise a child. Being able to have time to yourself, time to work, time to recreate and just time to unwind is important for any parent. You would not be able to have this opportunity were there not a co-parent in the picture. Without your child’s father establishing paternity there are limited opportunities to split these legal rights with another person down the road. By encouraging him to do so now you are looking out for your child’s best interests as well as your own, most likely.

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 opportunity for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. 

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