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Understanding paternity by conduct and how it may affect you

It's estimated that each year roughly one-third of all children born in the United States will belong to unmarried parents. One of the unfortunate consequences for those children born out of wedlock is that many will grow up with some uncertainty about their father's identities. The mothers of those children may also be confused about their child's paternity, especially in situations where two or more men may be a child's potential father.

An additional problem sometimes surfaces when mothers of children with unproven paternity later become romantically involved with other men. In many of those cases, the mother's new husband or boyfriend assumes the role of the child's father. This can sometimes lead to legal cases in which courts wrestle with assigning financial obligations to those men.

Since 1973, many state courts throughout the country have held that the conduct of these surrogate fathers should make them liable for child support obligations even though they share no genetic link to those children. In other words, a man who receives a child into his home and treats that child as one of his own has essentially assumed the child's paternity.

In a previous article on our web blog, we discussed how a 2012 change in Texas law can affect many men who have assumed fatherhood roles for children from other fathers. This new law places the onus of issuing a challenge to ending a presumed paternity squarely onto those surrogate fathers. Under the law, any man for whom paternity has been presumed has one year to challenge that paternity, beginning the date of discovering that they are not the child's actual father.

Consulting with a Texas paternity lawyer can be helpful in any situation where child's paternity is in question. This is true regardless of whether you are a wrongly presumed father or simply a father who would like to establish a legal basis for supporting your assumed children.

Based in Houston, our law firm has been providing legal services for clients throughout Harris County and the greater Houston Metroplex for over 20 years. Prospective clients should know that they can schedule a no cost appointment with our law office to meet with an attorney and discuss their paternity issues.

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