Texas Paternity Suits
Many child support and child custody cases require a parent to prove the paternity of a child. This can either be by the parent requesting support, or by a parent who wants to maintain a legal relationship with their child. Although this process is similar throughout the country, Texas has some unique differences parents should be aware of. If you are going through a paternity case or if you anticipate needing to establish paternity, the following article answers some basic questions about establishing paternity in Texas.
What is a paternity suit?
This is a lawsuit to determine a legal biological parent.
Under what circumstances is a paternity suit filed?
A parentage suit is filed to determine the biological father or mother of the child. A lawsuit will only arise when there is disagreement about paternity, or when one parent has been uncooperative when trying to establish paternity outside the court process.
Who may file a paternity suit?
Generally, the mother, a man claiming to be the father, the child (either individually or through a representative), or a governmental agency. Mothers and government agencies usually try to establish paternity in order to collect child support. Fathers and children use generally use paternity suits in order to maintain their legal relationship.
When can someone sue for paternity?
Unlike some other states, if the child does not already have a presumed father, a paternity suit can be brought at any time in Texas, even after the child is an adult. If the child has a presumed father, however, the paternity suit must be brought within four years of the child's birth, unless:
- the presumed biological father and mother did not live together or engage in sexual relations during the likely time of conception; or
- the presumed father was misled to believe he was the father.
What happens after a paternity suit is filed?
If the parties do not agree on the parentage, the court will order blood tests on the parties. If the parties agree on parentage, it is usually easier to establish paternity outside of the courts.
Who pays for the blood test?
If the parties cannot agree, the court will decide. The costs are usually shared by the parties.
What happens after the blood test?
The lab will prepare a report for the court. If the test shows that the named parent is NOT the biological parent, the court will dismiss the case. In Texas, if the test shows that the named parent is at least 99% likely to be the parent (no test is 100%), custody, visitation, and child support cases may begin, and the court will decide custody, visitation, and support issues for the parties if the parties cannot come to an agreement on those issues without the court's intervention.
Is the child's name affected?
Generally, the court will enter an order giving the child the father's last name. However, in some circumstances, the child will retain the mother's last name.
What if the mother is married when the child is conceived or born and the mother's husband in not the father?
Under Texas law, the mother's husband is presumed to be the father of the child. A suit may be brought to have the biological father named as the legal father; this is called a paternity suit.
Can I settle my case out of court?
Definitely. A case can be settled between the parties and their attorneys or through mediation, which is discussed in the "Mediation" section. If you settle without mediation, the court may appoint an attorney to make sure that the child's interest is protected under the law. The court must approve the settlement before it is implemented by the parties.
When is a voluntary paternity (parentage) suit filed?
A voluntary paternity (parentage) suit is filed when a parent acknowledges that he/she is the biological parent of a child and the parents are not married. Parents also have the opportunity to complete an Acknowledgement of Paternity form, which will establish paternity without the need for a court.
If you would like to know more about your rights and obligations as a parent, or would like to establish the paternity of your child, there are many family lawyers throughout Texas who may be able to help.