A paternity suit is a lawsuit that establishes the parent-child relationship by identifying the biological father of a child. If the paternity is not established, then the court cannot order the alleged father of a child to pay for the child support. Hence, it’s imperative to establish paternity (if questioned) before a court order for child support, conservatorship, possession & access, and retroactive child support is rendered. There are five different ways in which the court can establish father-child relationship: presumption, acknowledgment, adjudication, adoption, and consent to assisted reproduction by wife. The first three methods are briefly discussed below.
Establishing Paternity Through Presumption
The court presumes a man to be the father of a child if: he is married to the mother of the child and the child is born during the marriage; the child was born within the time period of 301 days from the date of termination of marriage between the man and the mother of the child due to death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce; he married the mother of the child after the child was born and voluntarily claimed his paternity of the child that is shown in a record with: the Vital Statistics Unit, the child’s birth certificate, or in a record where he promised to support the child as his own; or in the first two years of the child’s life, he continuously stayed in the same house as the child and also represented to others that the child was his own (Texas Family Code § 160.204 (a)).
This presumption is only rebutted if: the presumed father files a legally valid denial of paternity and both of the child’s biological parents file a valid acknowledgment of paternity; or a court order that categorically declares him not the legal father of the child (Texas Family Code § 160.204 (b)).
Establishing Paternity Through Acknowledgment
Acknowledgment of paternity is established if: it’s in a record with the Vital Statistics Unit; signed or authenticated under penalty of perjury by the mother of the child and the man filing to establish paternity; mentions whether there is an another man who is an acknowledged, adjudicated, or presumed father; mentions whether genetic testing was conducted and does the results confirm the assertion of the man to be the biological father of the child; and state that signatories are aware of the fact that this filing of acknowledgment of paternity will have the same effect as the adjudication of paternity (Texas Family Code § 160.302 (a)).
The acknowledgment of paternity is treated as void if: it mentions that there is a presumed father of the child and he does not file a legally valid denial of paternity with the Vital Statistics Unit; it mentions that there is another man who is an acknowledged or adjudicated father of the child; or it falsely denies that there is man who is the acknowledged, adjudicated, or presumed father of the child (Texas Family Code § 160.302 (b)).
Establishing Paternity Through Adjudication
Other than the two ways mentioned above, paternity can also be established by a court. People authorized to file a proceeding to adjudicate parentage include: the child, the mother of the child, a man whose paternity is to be adjudicated, support enforcement or any other government agency; a licensed child-placing agency or an authorized adoption agency; a representative authorized by law to act for an individual who would otherwise be entitled to maintain a proceeding but who is deceased, is incapacitated, or is a minor; a person related within the second degree by consanguinity to the mother of the child, in the event the mother is deceased; or by a person who is an intended parent to the child (Texas Family Code § 160.602 (a)).
It must be noted that once the child who doesn’t have an acknowledged, adjudicated, or presumed father becomes an adult, then only he/she has the legal right to file a proceeding to adjudicate parentage (Texas Family Code § 160.602 (b)).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Busby Jr. is a divorce & family law attorney, who practices in Harris and Fort Bend Counties, Texas. He has been in practice for over 14 years and has tried over 300 cases. He is familiar with the policy and procedures of the Harris and Fort Bend County Texas family law courts. Our office is open until 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for working folks. Michael Busby Jr. 2909 Hillcroft Suite 350 Houston, Texas 77057 (713) 974-1151 Visit me on the web at www.busby-lee.com