Your Guide To Mistaken Paternity In Texas
Paternity is the basis of a father’s rights and duties in Texas. A man who does not have paternity cannot get child custody or child visitation. Along the same lines, a man who does not have paternity cannot be ordered to pay child support. Paternity may be established through:
- Voluntary acknowledgment; or
- Genetic testing.
You may be wondering: What happens if paternity is mistaken in Texas? The short is that the state has a process through which paternity can be disestablished. Here, our Galveston County paternity lawyer explains the key things to understand about mistaken paternity cases in Texas.
Mistaken Paternity: The Right to Terminate the Parent-Child Relationship
In 2012, Texas lawmakers passed an important bill that reformed our state’s mistaken paternity laws. Under Texas Senate Bill 785 (SB 785), it is possible for a father (or mother) to file to terminate the parent-child relationship between a man and a child on the grounds of mistaken paternity. When terminated, the man loses access to all parental rights and obligations, including the right to get child custody and the duty to pay child support.
There is a Strict Time Limit to Act in a Mistaken Paternity Case
The mistaken paternity law is subject to a strict statute of limitations. Parties have a limited time to take action under the statute. As explained in the text of SB 785, a person who is filing for termination of parental rights and responsibilities on the grounds of mistaken paternity must do so no later than the “first anniversary of the date on which the petitioner becomes aware of the facts alleged in the petition indicating that the petitioner is not the child’s genetic father.”
In other words, a man who wants to remove parental responsibilities—including the duty to pay child support—on the grounds of mistaken paternity has to file a petition to do so within one year of the date upon which he learned the information upon which he is initiating his claim. As an example, imagine that a married couple had a child. The man is automatically the lawful father of the child based on the marriage. One year after the birth, the wife confides in him that she had an affair and he may not be the child’s genetic father. Texas law requires that man to take action to disestablish paternity within one year of the date of that conversation.
Genetic Testing Will Be Used to Bring Clarity
Mistaken paternity cases are ultimately resolved through genetic testing of the putative father and the child. If the parties can work cooperatively, they can agree to seek genetic testing. However, if the parties cannot cooperate, a court may order genetic testing of the father and the child. If there is not a match, then the parent-child relationship can be terminated on the grounds of mistaken paternity.
Schedule a Confidential Consultation With a Paternity Lawyer in Galveston County
At Lindamood & Robinson, P.C., our Galveston County family attorney handles the full range of paternity cases. If you have any questions about mistaken paternity in Texas, we can help. Contact our family law team today for a strictly confidential case review. We provide paternity law services throughout Galveston County, including in Texas City, League City, Friendswood, and Dickinson.