If it is unknown who the biological father of your child is, a paternity suit may be filed to make a legal determination of parentage. This type of family lawsuit may be filed not only to create a legal relationship between parent and child but also to create orders related to child support, visitation, and conservatorship over the child.
The persons that can file a paternity lawsuit in Texas include:
- The child him or herself
- The mother of the child
- The potential father whose paternity is to be determined in the lawsuit
- If the mother is deceased a relative within the second degree of consanguinity
- A government agency
- A child placement or adoption agency
- A representative for any deceased party that would ordinarily be able to file a paternity suit
- 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 lawsuit results.
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 the child's paternity. The following circumstances must also be in place:
- You must file an assertion of parentage with the State Vital Statistics Office
- You were voluntarily put on the child's birth certificate as the child's father, or
- You promised in writing to support the child as your son or daughter
There is also a way to 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 are you 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 child's mother, 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 child's biological father. Instead of going through a paternity lawsuit, this document adjudicates you as the father without going through a formal legal process to have a judge decide as to who the father of the child is.
How soon can a paternity suit be filed in Texas?
Any time before the child's birth, 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, the lawsuit must be filed before 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 reasonable period the child was conceived. Likewise, as the presumed father, suppose you mistakenly believed that the child was not yours due to misrepresentations made by either the mother or another person. In that case, the four-year lime limit does not apply either.
You've filed a paternity suit- what happens next?
The judge will order a genetic test in your case. The costs for the testing will likely be split evenly between you and the other party. If your lawsuit were filed before the child's birth, the judge would wait until the child is born to order genetic testing of the baby.
The samples will be sent to a lab to write a report for the judge to review. The case will be dismissed right away if the man who was tested is determined not to be the father of the child. If 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 an adjudicated father is in place, the court can determine visitation, support, and custody of the child concerning mother and father. Of course, if the mother and father can agree on these issues, the court will defer to the decisions made by the parties. So long as any settlement agreement protects the child's best interests, 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, PLLC. 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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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's essential to speak with one of our Houston, TX, Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Houston, TX, are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.