You are the father: The basics of Texas paternity law
Issues of paternity can often be of significant importance during Texas family law disputes – especially when child support or parental rights are at stake. When paternity is in doubt or when the parents are not married, it can be difficult to determine legal obligations or rights. For instance, an unwed father may need to establish paternity before he will be granted visitation or custody rights. Conversely, if a father has failed to support his child, a mother may need to establish paternity before a court will order child support payments.
Essentially, there are three ways to establish paternity under Texas law:
- Paternity by presumption
- Paternity by acknowledgement
- Paternity by court order
Presumption of paternity under Texas law
Texas law expressly states that a man is “presumed” to be the father of a child if he is married to the mother and the child is born while the two are married – or born within 300 days of the couple’s divorce. However, this presumption can be rebutted through adjudication or if the presumed father files a denial of paternity in conjunction with an acknowledgment of paternity by another man.
Typically, paternity established by presumption can only be challenged within four years of a child’s birth in Texas. Although, the parties can disregard this four-year time limit if they can show that the presumed father and mother did not live together or engage in sexual relations during the time of conception, or if the presumed father was “precluded” from determining paternity because of his incorrect belief that he was the biological father due to misrepresentations.
Paternity by acknowledgment in Texas
Paternity in Texas can also be established by acknowledgement, such as when the mother and father sign a document recognizing such paternity. While there are several formal requirements of a paternity acknowledgment, once executed it can be challenging to rescind.
For instance, if a father signs a paternity acknowledgement and fails to rescind the document within 60 days, he can only challenge the acknowledgment on the basis of “fraud, duress or material mistake of fact.”
Lastly, paternity can be determined by court order, otherwise known as adjudication. It is during this process that the parties can ask the court establish parentage, which is often done using genetic testing. Typically, ascertaining paternity by adjudication can be done at any time if the child does not have a presumed or acknowledged father, although the four-year limitation period mentioned earlier may be applicable if a presumed father exists.
Ultimately, however, questions of paternity in Texas often involve several complex laws and regulations – meaning this article barely scratches the surface of what parents need to know when addressing issues of paternity. Accordingly, if you are currently involved in a paternity case, it is often best to consult with an experienced paternity lawyer. A knowledgeable lawyer can help you navigate complicated laws and assist in protecting your rights.