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A rundown on paternity suits

A paternity suit is a legal action to establish parental rights over a child by legally declaring that a particular person is a father. These suits can be filed by the father or the mother. The mother would attach it because it would compel the father to pay child support. The father would file it to gain parental rights to participate in raising the child.

In Texas, a suit to establish paternity can be brought at any time if a child does not have a presumed father ? even after the child is an adult. If the child does have an alleged father, it must be brought within four years of the child's birth. There are two exceptions to this rule. First, the presumed father did not engage in sexual relations with the mother during the time that conception likely occurred or, second, the presumed father was misled into believing he was the father.

Once the suit is filed, the court will order blood tests on the mother, father, and child. The testing lab will prepare the blood tests, and parentage will be established based upon the results. The tests do not operate in a binary yes-no fashion, instead the results are shown as a probability. If the DNA test establishes that it is 99 percent or more likely that a particular male is a father, then the court will establish paternity.

After establishing paternity, the court then shifts to issues of child support and visitation (assuming the parties are unable to settle these matters on their own).

Paternity suits are difficult to litigate. But you don't have to leave your child's future in doubt by trying to handle it yourself; you can contact an attorney for help. A lawyer can assist you through the entire process to ensure that you have the best shot at gaining the right to raise your child or at having the child's father provide financial support.

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