Texas Paternity

Texas Paternity Laws

Paternity Laws in Texas


Question: My new husband has a baby with another woman. What do we do if she stops allowing him to visit his child?

Answer: Regardless of any agreements between you, you should establish paternity. By establishing the identity of the father with a court order, terms would then become enforceable and you could be sure that he would be given a specific visitation schedule and given credit for any child support paid.

Question: I just found out I have a child. Can I just sign over my rights and avoid child support?

Answer: It is very unlikely that “signing over your rights” would be approved by the court. The issue you bring up is the termination of the father’s parental rights. Dallas area judges are quite reluctant to allow a termination of your rights unless someone is also seeking adoption of the child. It is more likely that the paternity of the child would be established at this time. Texas law recognizes that children have a right to know their parents, and vice versa.

Question: Are there any time limits to establishing the paternity of a child in Texas?

Answer: If there is a “presumed” father, meaning the mother was married to someone at the time of the child’s birth, then under most circumstances an order for paternity, testing would have to occur by the child’s fourth birthday. Texas Family Code 160.607.

If there is no presumed father, meaning the mother was single at the time of the birth, then there is no time limit for establishment of paternity underTexas Family Code 160.606.

However, effective May 12, 2011, a man may seek termination of the parent child relationship if, without genetic testing, he signed an acknowledgement of paternity or was adjudicated the father of a child, because he was mistaken that he was the father. A petition must be filed no later than one year after the man learns he is not the genetic father, beginning September 1, 2012. Before that date, a termination may be filed due to mistaken paternity regardless of how long the man has been aware of the mistake. Texas Family Code 161.005.

Question: What is the significance of the father’s identification on the birth certificate?

Answer: The identification of the father on the birth certificate merely creates a legal presumption that the named person is the father. The paternity of the child is only legally established by court order.

Question: Can the father change the infant’s last name to his?

Answer: If the father asks to have his name on the child, that request will most likely be granted by the court. This is an old Texas common law rule that the father has a protectable interest in the child bearing his surname. In re Baird, 610 S.W.2d 252 (Tex. Civ. App. — Fort Worth 1980, no writ). You could ask that the child’s name be hyphenated with yours, or request that the father’s name be a middle name, but these requests would be at the judge’s discretion.

Question: What are the rights of a biological father?

Answer: On the issue of the bio-father’s rights, paternity testing can be compelled by the court under these circumstances, if bio-dad or you request the test. He may also ask to have his name on the child, and that request will most likely be granted by the court. This is an old Texas common law rule that the father has a protectable interest in the child bearing his surname. In re Baird, 610 S.W.2d 252 (Tex. Civ. App. — Fort Worth 1980, no writ). You could ask that the child’s name be hyphenated with yours, or request that the father’s name be a middle name, but these requests would be at the judge’s discretion. He may request to have access to the child and a regular visitation schedule. He would have access to medical and educational records of the child. He would have the right to direct the religious training of the child while in his possession. These are a few of the rights a biological father may be awarded.

Question: What responsibility does the father have for prenatal care and costs of delivery of the child?

Answer: If he is found to be the father, he can be ordered to pay prenatal and postnatal care for mom, as well as costs of delivery.

Question: What are my rights as the father of a child?

Answer: You should file a paternity lawsuit to establish yourself as the father. On the issue of rights as the father, paternity testing can be compelled by the court if mom or you request it. You may also ask to have your surname on the child, and that request will most likely be granted by the court. This is an old Texas common law rule that the father has a protectable interest in the child bearing his surname. In re Baird, 610 S.W.2d 252 (Tex. Civ. App. — Fort Worth 1980, no writ). Mom could ask that the child’s name be hyphenated with yours, or request that the father’s name be a middle name, but these requests would be at the judge’s discretion.

You may request to have access to the child and a regular visitation schedule. You would have access to medical and educational records of the child. You would have the right to direct the moral and religious training of the child while in your possession. These are a few of the rights a biological father may be awarded.

Question: What does it mean to have my name on a birth certificate for a child? Does that mean I am the father?

Answer: Do you have a court order naming you as the father? The signing of a birth certificate creates merely a presumption that the person named is the father. In order to change the birth certificate, the paternity of the child would have to be determined by a court.

Question: What if I have an order naming me as the father, but I have now tested myself and the child, and I am NOT the biological father?

Answer: Effective May 12, 2011, a man may seek termination of the parent child relationship if, without genetic testing, he signed an acknowledgement of paternity or was adjudicated the father of a child, because he was mistaken that he was the father. A petition must be filed no later than one year after the man learns he is not the genetic father, beginning September 1, 2012. Before that date, a termination may be filed due to mistaken paternity regardless of how long the man has been aware of the mistake. Texas Family Code 161.005.

Question: Can paternity of a child be tested before the child is born?

Answer: The short answer is no. The best approach would be to establish the father with a court order, because the terms would then be enforceable, and you could be sure that he would be given credit for the child support paid. That is accomplished by filing a lawsuit for paternity. However, the court will not establish orders or test for paternity until the child is born.

Question: What factors are used to determine retroactive child support in a paternity case?

Answer: In a paternity case, the court has wide discretion to determine if back child support would be paid. The questions for the mother would involve if she made the father aware of the child, invited him to the hospital for the birth, contacted him for help, etc. Questions for the father involve his knowledge of the birth of the child, whether he had a reasonable belief that the woman had other boyfriends and if he can be humble in court. If he is found to be the father, he can be ordered to pay prenatal and postnatal care for mom, as well as costs of delivery, in addition to retroactive child support.

Question: Can a father sign over his parental rights if he wants to avoid the payment of child support?

Answer: The issue you bring up is the termination of the father’s parental rights. Dallas area judges are unlikely to allow a termination under these circumstances. It is more likely that the paternity of the child would be established at this time.

Question: Under what circumstances does a child have a “presumed” father?

Answer: The signing of a birth certificate creates merely a presumption that a person is the father. In addition, marriage to a man at the time the child is born also creates merely a presumption that a person is the father.

Since there is a “presumed” father, meaning the mother was married to someone at the time of the birth or shortly thereafter, then under most circumstances, testing would have to occur by the fourth birthday, by the biological father. Texas Family Code 160.607.

However, effective May 12, 2011, a man may seek termination of the parent child relationship if, without genetic testing, he signed an acknowledgement of paternity or was adjudicated the father of a child, because he was mistaken that he was the father. A petition must be filed no later than one year after the man learns he is not the genetic father, beginning September 1, 2012. Before that date, a termination may be filed due to mistaken paternity regardless of how long the man has been aware of the mistake. Texas Family Code 161.005.

Question: What if I just found out years after the divorce that I am not the father of the child?

Answer: Even after a divorce, effective May 12, 2011, a man may seek termination of the parent child relationship if, without genetic testing, he signed an acknowledgement of paternity or was adjudicated the father of a child, because he was mistaken that he was the father. A petition must be filed no later than one year after the man learns he is not the genetic father, beginning September 1, 2012. Before that date, a termination may be filed due to mistaken paternity regardless of how long the man has been aware of the mistake. Texas Family Code 161.005.

However, the court may deny a request for paternity testing, depending on the needs of the child and the relationship between the man and the child.Texas Family Code 106.608.

Question: What are the rights of a mother?

Answer: On the issue of the bio-mom’s rights, you may request to have access to the child and a regular visitation schedule. You would have access to medical and educational records of the child. You would have the right to direct the moral and religious training of the child while in your possession. You may have the right to receive, or be ordered to pay, child support. These are a few of the rights a biological mother may be awarded, if the court finds they are in the best interests of the child.

Question: Can a child divorce one or both parents in Texas?

Answer: In Texas, a child does not “divorce” the parents. For a minor to live separately from the parents and have the right to contract-meaning buy cars and rent apartments-the child must go through a court procedure called Removal of Disabilities of a Minor. The law requires that the child requesting Removal of Disabilities of a Minor by the court show: 1) that the minor is at least 16 years old, living separate from the parents, and, 2) the minor is self-supporting and managing his/her own affairs. Reference Texas Family Code section 31.001.