Paternity Attorneys, Houston TX
In Texas, paternity cases are becoming more frequent. Couples are delaying marriage more often, and as a result, they are more likely to have children prior to or outside the marriage. This can present some difficulties in the event the parties decide to separate. That is because the father does not have automatic rights to their child unless certain legal procedures have occurred. This is called establishing paternity and there are two main ways to do this for parties who have a child outside a marital relationship.
The first and easiest way to ensure a father has established his paternity to his child is to sign and file an acknowledgment of paternity (AOP) with the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics. It is an administrative process and requires both the mother and father to sign a specific form. Once filed, that form is a legal finding of the father's paternity. The process must be executed with the assistance of an AOP-certified entity, which is very often the hospital where the child is born, or the Attorney General's office. There is no genetic testing required.
The next way that paternity can be established is by filing a paternity action in family court and request DNA testing. This action can be filed by either parent.
Why establishing paternity is important
First, establishing paternity allows the father to exercise basic rights as to their child. This includes visitation, custody, and child support. Once paternity is established, the father has all the rights and obligations of any other parent under the law to that child.
This can be crucial in a situation where two parties are married, but the wife becomes pregnant by another man. That's because when a child is born of a marital relationship, there is a presumption that the wife's husband is the father of that child. This means that they will legally be obligated to provide financial support to the child. In some cases, the husband will be able to file a Denial of Paternity, which is similar to the acknowledgment form described above. With this denial, the presumed father declares that he has no biological ties to the child. However, the denial will not be effective unless an acknowledgment of paternity is also signed by the mother and the child's biological father. That is because courts in Texas are very reluctant to find a child without a parent unless there is another parent who can be found to ensure the child is supported.
Rescinding Paternity and Other Important Time Limits
Courts are also hesitant to allow a party to rescind their acknowledgment of paternity, even if they believe they are not the biological father of the child after the fact. However, it is possible to terminate the relationship if mistaken paternity can be demonstrated. The time period to contest paternity is very small: if paternity was established after August 2012, the petition to end the relationship must be filed with the court within 12 months of the father finding out he is not the father of the child.
If a child has no presumed or otherwise legally determined father, then a man can file a lawsuit asking the court to establish his paternity at any time before the child turns 18. However, if the child has a presumed father (for example, the child was born during a marriage), then the man must file a paternity lawsuit prior to the child's fourth birthday, with limited exceptions.
We Can Help You With Your Paternity Case
Establishing paternity is an important step that is required by Texas law before granting fathers any rights or allowing mothers to obtain child support from men. The process can be complex and understanding the statutes of limitations can be crucial. Our team can help navigate the process of establishing paternity and custody of your child. **CALL TO ACTION.