In Texas, fathers generally have a right to access and visit their children even if they have never had custody of their children. Fathers also have an financial obligation to provide support for their children. The Texas Family Code requires that paternity is either voluntarily accepted or proven by one of several legal processes to impose financial obligations on the father. The Texas Family Code imposes the same financial obligations on fathers where paternity must be proven that is imposed by child support obligations in a divorce or other suit affecting the parent-child relationship.
The most common way to prove paternity is through a paternity suit that includes a DNA test of the alleged father and child. A paternity suit is a legal process in the family courts that relies on the DNA test results to determine whether paternity exists. The results of the DNA test are treated as complete and final evidence of paternity unless a second DNA test contradicts the first test. DNA tests are the most effective way to legally establish paternity for child support and visitation rights because it relies on scientific data to establish the biological connection. If the alleged father will not submit to the DNA test, the court can order the alleged father’s relatives to submit to testing because the DNA testing can match through relatives. If no relatives are available the court can impose sanctions on the alleged father to encourage submitting to the test. It is rare when the family court cannot reach a conclusion on paternity through a DNA test.
In addition to paternity tests, the Texas Family Code sets out several other methods in which paternity can be either voluntarily or even involuntarily accepted by the father as a method of establishing the father-child relationship as a matter of law. You do not have to go to court to establish paternity although for child support to be enforced against you or for you to enforce your legal rights to access your child a lawsuit must be filed. If you have already voluntarily acknowledged paternity of a child outside of a paternity suit it will be very difficult to avoid paying child support even if you are not the biological father. For that reason, you should be cautious about voluntarily accepting paternity of a child that may not be yours until a DNA test can confirm you are the biological father.
Paternity suits are not only about making the father pay child support. Paternity suits also protect the father’s rights to have a relationship with his children and act as a father. By establishing paternity the father will also have his rights to visitation and potentially even shared possession and decision making over the child. Legal recognition of paternity prevents the mother or other people, such as grandparents, from preventing the father from protecting his rights to form a relationship with his children unless the father’s presence in the child’s life would not be in the best interest of the child (such as if the father is abusing the child). Paternity suits are not about making the father pay for a child he will never see.
After paternity is proven, some fathers do make the decision not to be a part of the child’s life and not visit or communicate with the child. The father cannot be required to visit or communicate with child. However, the father cannot refuse to pay child support ordered by the court in exchange for not visiting or communicating with the child. It is not an all or nothing arrangement. The child support obligation will be enforced by the family courts even if the father decides not to have any relationship with the child.
Both mother and father have an interest in the outcome of a paternity suit. The Kielich Law Firm represents both parents in paternity suits to make sure the child receives the support of his or her father. If you are involved in a paternity suit or need to file a paternity suit to obtain support for your child my firm can represent you in a paternity suit. Contact my firm today to discuss your needs.