Legal Remedy for Mistaken Paternity Cases Under the Texas Family Code
Mistaken paternity is the term used to describe the occurrence wherein a court has determined that a man is the biological father of a child, or the man has officially acknowledged his paternity, but it turns out the man is not actually the father of the child and he did not know this fact at the time of the court determination or his acknowledgement.
Recently, the Texas State Legislature has amended the Texas Family Code to provide a legal remedy for men who are the subject of mistaken paternity cases.
Specifically, the amendment to the Texas Family Code empowers the courts to terminate the man's duty to pay court ordered child support and to terminate the man's parental relationship with the child in cases of mistaken paternity. Men who feel that they may meet the requirements of mistaken paternity can request genetic testing by order of the court.
If this genetic testing reveals the man is not the child's biological father, the court will terminate the aforementioned child support and parental relationship. However, even if mistaken paternity is found, the man will still be responsible for any missed child support payments (and interest) that accrued until the date of termination.
Our office has provided additional information on mistaken paternity below. Please note these explanations are for informational purposes only and should not be construed to be legal advice.
What is the process for a man who doubts his paternity to terminate his duty to pay child support?
In order to end your duty to pay child support on the grounds of mistaken paternity, you must file an official petition asking the court to formally terminate your parental relationship with the child. The guidelines and requirements for filing this petition are outlined in section 161.005(c) of the Texas Family Code. Importantly, you must file the petition no later than one year after the date you first learn that you are not the biological father of the child.
After a man files the petition, the court will hold a hearing to decide if the man meets the requirements to proceed with his mistaken paternity case. If so, the court will order the man and the child to undergo genetic testing to determine their biological relationship. If this genetic testing shows that the man is not the biological father of the child, the court will enter an official legal order terminating the man's parental relationship with the child.
Can a man maintain contact with the child after the court terminates his parental relationship?
Per current Texas law, the man may request that the court grant him continued visitation or possession (custody) of the child. The man must make this request before the court enters the order terminating his parental relationship with the child. If the court deems that the man's continued visitation or access to the child is in the best interests of the child's physical and emotional health and well-being, the court may grant the man's request. However, this determination is wholly fact-specific to the man and child's personal circumstances and there is not a hard-and-fast rule regarding granting these requests.
Cases of mistaken paternity create unique issues that have long-lasting consequences. Our office is available to assist San Antonio fathers who believe they may have a mistaken paternity case and wish to utilize the courts to vindicate their rights.
To discuss your case with one of our experienced family law attorneys in San Antonio, Texas, contact our office today at 210-824-1800 and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.