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Do I still have to pay child support if paternity is not mine?

Establishing the proper paternity of a child is not taken lightly in Texas. One of the reasons for this is because Texas courts have been enabled with powerful authority to punish parents who fail to financially support their children. In fact, it is possible to be jailed and fined for failure to pay court-ordered child support. Another reason is that once paternity is established, the mother of a child will also be given access to the father's medical history and genetic records.

However, Texas family courts recognize that sometimes mistaken paternity occurs. This can be as a result of fraud, which is defined as a material misrepresentation of the facts. For example, fraud would occur if a father who is alleged to be the parent of a child sends his friend to take the genetic test on his behalf.

Mistaken paternity can also happen as a result of mistakes. Things like tainted lab results as a result of shoddy lab standards may contribute to the assessment of incorrect paternity.

A father may also challenge paternity if he can demonstrate that he is sterile or otherwise unable to father a child. Yet another strategy to challenge paternity would be to demonstrate to the court evidence of the mother's infidelity in marriage.

It is also important to remember that a challenge to paternity can also be brought by someone other than the alleged father. For example, medical professionals who realize they may have named the wrong person as a child's father may initiate the challenge to the court.

Under Texas law, beginning after Sept. 1, 2012, a father with presumed paternity must initiate a challenge to terminate parental rights based on mistaken paternity within one year of learning of the mistake. Prior to the change in the law, any father who later discovered that he was not the actual father could petition the court to terminate parental rights.

Therefore, if you have been wrongly or falsely determined to be the father of a child with whom you share no genetic paternity, you may be able to terminate your child support payments.

Source: Texas State Legislature, "Family Code-Title Five, Subtitle B, Chapter 160-The Uniform Parentage Act" Aug. 26, 2014

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