In Texas, a man who fathers a child enjoys the same rights as the child’s mother, including the right to be included in any court cases affecting the parent-child relationship. The man will also be responsible for supporting the child financially until the child reaches the age of 18, or after in some circumstances. We at Wilhite & Lea, P.C. are here to answer your questions regarding paternity and walk you through the process of presuming or disproving your status as a father.
Houston Paternity Attorneys
The attorneys at Wilhite & Lea, P.C. are dedicated to helping families make the most of their situation and resolve issues that may arise. If you are a potential father with questions about paternity in Houston or the surrounding metropolitan area, including Harris, Fort Bend, Waller, Grimes, Washington, and Montgomery counties, contact a Texas family law attorney to schedule a meeting to discuss the details of your case with one of our attorneys.
Paternity Information Center
There are a few key concepts about paternity as it relates to child support cases throughout Texas. These include:
Back to top
A man will be presumed to be a child’s father if any of the following tests is met:
- If the child was born during, or within 300 days after, marriage
- If the man marries, or volunteers to marry, the child’s mother after the child is born AND
- He asserts paternity in a record filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics or
- He is named as the baby’s father on the birth certificate or
- He promises in a record to support the child as his own.
- The man lives with the child for the first two years after birth, and tells others it is his.
Orally promising to support the child, or stating that the child is yours, will not mean you are presumed to be the child’s father.
If your child is born out-of-wedlock, you will not be subject to all of the rights and responsibilities of parenthood, even if you are presumed to be the child’s father under one of the above tests. You will have the right to notice of any lawsuit involving the parent-child relationship (for example, termination of parental rights in an adoption case). In order to enjoy any of the other rights and duties of parenthood, you will need to be adjudicated the child’s father in a paternity suit.
Back to top
Challenging a Presumption of Paternity
A suit to challenge the presumption of paternity must be brought within 4 years of the child’s birth. However, there will be no time limit if the mother and the presumed father never lived together or engaged in sexual contact and the presumed father never told others that the child was his.
Paternity suits are usually brought by the presumed father, if he believes he is not the child’s father. However, women sometimes bring these suits, to prove an ex-boyfriend or husband was not their child’s father. Another man might also wish to bring suit if he believes that he (and not the presumed father) is the child’s father.
Having the legal backing of a child support lawyer in Texas can help you put forth the evidence that will challenge the presumption of your paternity. The details involved can be very subjective, so having experienced legal counsel can make the process go more smoothly.
Back to top
The paternity of a child with a presumed father may only be disproved in two ways:
- Genetic testing
- Acknowledgment of paternity by another man
If another man is acknowledging paternity, he must do so in writing, and the presumed father must also deny paternity in writing.
Back to top
Paternity by Estoppel
In certain circumstances, the court may deny a request for genetic testing, and adjudicate the presumed father to be the child’s father. This is called “paternity by estoppel.” Paternity by estoppel only applies to married men.
Paternity by estoppel usually applies in situations where the presumed father has known for a long time that the child may not be his, but has continued to live with and be married to the mother, and has represented to many people that the child is his.
Factors the court looks to in deciding whether to apply the paternity by estoppel doctrine include:
- The length of time between when the man realized he may not be the child’s father, and the day the paternity action is filed
- The length of time the man has assumed the role of father of the child
- The way that the man discovered he might not be the father
- The age of the child
- The relationship between the man and the child
- Any harm that might come to the child if the court finds the man is not the child’s father
The purpose of this doctrine is to protect children in situations where a man has long acted as the child’s father.
If you believe you may be the father of a child, or if you are presumed to be the father of a child that you do not believe is yours, it is important that you speak to a lawyer immediately about your rights and responsibilities.
Back to top
Wilhite & Lea, P.C. | Texas Paternity Lawyers
Determining your status as the father of a child could make a significant difference in your life. Whether you're trying to prove or disprove your paternity, the experienced family lawyers at Wilhite & Lea, P.C. are ready to help you navigate Texas civil law to resolve your paternity case. Contact us at (281) 537-2171 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free case consultation with one of our attorneys today.