How is paternity determined in Texas?

Since the advent of DNA testing, determining paternity has never been easier. Indeed, some companies even provide take-home paternity tests. But, despite the ease of such testing in today's world, paternity is nevertheless something that must be taken seriously. After all, establishing paternity through genetic testing is often the only way to conclusively resolve disputes related to child support and/or parental rights.

However, it is important to note that genetic testing is only one of several ways in which to establish paternity in Texas.

Paternity by presumption

The first way to establish paternity in Texas is by presumption. In fact, Texas law delineates certain situations in which a man will be presumed to be a child's father. For example, if a child is born while the alleged father and the mother are married, or born within 300 days of their divorce, the man will be presumed under the law as the child's father.

Normally, once paternity is ascertained by presumption, it can only be refuted by adjudication or by the filing of a denial of paternity by the presumed father in combination with the filing of an acknowledgment of paternity by another person.

Moreover, if a presumed father wishes to challenge paternity through adjudication and court order, he must do so before the child reaches the ages of four. After that time, he can only dispute paternity under certain circumstances, including situations in which:

  • The presumed father and the child's mother did not live together or engage in sexual relations at the time of conception
  • The presumed father was prevented from adjudicating paternity because misrepresentations led him to mistakenly believe he was the child's biological father

Acknowledging paternity in Texas

Secondly, paternity can be established by acknowledgment in Texas, which typically requires both the father and the mother to sign a document recognizing paternity. However, this acknowledgment may be considered invalid if it does not meet the strict guidelines laid out under Texas law.

After signing a valid acknowledgment of paternity, the father does have a 60-day window in which he can attempt to rescind the document. However, after that time, Texas law states he can only challenge the acknowledgment on the grounds of duress, fraud or material mistake of fact.

Paternity by adjudication and court order

The final way in which paternity can be established in Texas is by using adjudication to obtain a court order. Often times, it is during this legal proceeding that genetic testing comes into play. Importantly, adjudication of paternity can be commenced at any time so long as no one has already been named as a child's father through presumption, acknowledgment or previous adjudication. However, time limitations may exist if a man has already been identified as the father of the child.

Paternity disputes in Texas can often become quite complex. However, given the serious consequences associated with a paternity determination, it is important to seek the counsel of an experienced attorney to ensure you are aware of all relevant laws and procedures. A skilled paternity attorney can help explain your rights and assist you with filing any claims.