Answering questions of paternity under Texas law

Establishing paternity can be particularly important in Texas. In fact, many fathers often discover that their rights as a parent – such as rights to custody or visitation – often hinge upon paternity determinations, especially in circumstances in which a father is not wed to a child’s mother.

Alternatively, mothers may also find themselves needing to establish paternity, particularly if they want a court to order a father to pay child support. However, regardless of the situation, it is crucial for those involved in paternity disputes to become familiar with Texas law on the subject. For instance, in Texas, there are three ways in which paternity can be established: 1) by presumption, 2) by acknowledgment, and 3) by adjudication and court order.

Paternity presumptions in Texas

Under Texas law, paternity of a child may be presumed in several circumstances, including when:

  • A man is married to the child’s mother, and the child is born during their marriage
  • A man was married to the child’s mother, and the child is born within 300 days of their divorce
  • A man represents to others that the child is, in fact, his, and he “continuously” lives in the same house as the child during the child’s first two years of life
  • A man marries the child’s mother after the child is born and voluntarily claims paternity, such as allowing himself to be listed as the child’s father in a record filed with the bureau of vital statistics or on the child’s birth certificate

However, if paternity is determined by presumption, it can only be negated by adjudication or when a presumed father files a denial of paternity in conjunction with an acknowledgment of paternity by another man. Importantly, after paternity has been established by presumption, it generally cannot be disputed by adjudication once the child turns four-years-old – although, there are exceptions to this time limit.

Establishing paternity in Texas by acknowledgment or adjudication

If a father is not married to a child’s mother, questions of paternity will often need to be determined by acknowledgment or through adjudication and court order. For instance, paternity can be acknowledged under Texas law if both the father and mother voluntarily sign the required documents. Once this documentation is signed, it can only be challenged on the basis of duress, fraud or mistake of fact. However, an individual does has a 60-day window is which he can rescind an acknowledgment after signing.

Additionally, adjudication can also be used to establish paternity by court order, which is generally done using genetic testing. Interestingly, this process can be used at any time as long as no other man has been legally named as the child’s father.

In the end, Texas law can be incredibility difficult to navigate when attempting to establish paternity, meaning this article is barely able to scratch the surface of all relevant law. Consequently, it is always best to seek the counsel of an experienced child custody attorney if you are involved in a paternity dispute. A skilled attorney can assist with explaining pertinent laws as well as help ensure your rights – and your child’s rights – are protected.