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How paternity affects custody and support disputes

In some circumstances, it may be necessary to prove paternity should there be a custody or support dispute between the two parents. Most of the time, these cases are the result of a mother who wants to collect child support from the person she claims to be the father of the child. Formally establishing paternity is a critical element of these proceedings, though it is possible to successfully navigate this process with the support of an experienced family law lawyer.

The purpose of a paternity case is to document a child’s biological father. When paternity is legally established, it may affect child custody and financial support for the child. These proceedings can be filed by the mother seeking support, the man claiming to be the father or challenging the claims of the mother, as well as a government agency. In Texas, unlike most states, laws allow for these claims to filed at any point in the child’s life.

In the course of a paternity dispute, a judge will generally order a blood test to be completed by a lab. After the results are shared with the court, the judge can determine to either dismiss the case or — should the results establish paternity to the court’s satisfaction — begin to deliberate on issues such as custody, child support and visitation schedules. At this point, parents can fight for their desired outcome in court or work with legal counsel to establish a support agreement or parenting plan.

Legally established paternity can play a major role in a Texas custody case, affecting which parent has custody, which parent pays/receives financial support and how the child spends time with either parent. When there is any question regarding biological fatherhood, it is important to secure legal counsel experienced in complex family law issues. There are a number of other important considerations, and since these issues have such a long-reaching effect, it is best to seek professional help promptly.

Source:statelaws.findlaw.com, “Texas Paternity Suits”, Dec. 29, 2014

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