Texas Paternity Lawyers
Texas paternity lawyers help clients establish or challenge paternity in child custody cases. Paternity establishes the biological father’s legal right to a relationship with the child and a duty to support the child financially. Paternity suits are an important part of family law in Texas. Family law attorneys in Texas represent clients on both sides to establish or contest paternity. If you are involved in a paternity dispute, then you should contact Texas paternity lawyers to help you resolve the dispute.
What is paternity?
Paternity refers to a determination of biological fatherhood. Once a court rules in favor of paternity then the man becomes the child’s legal father. Typically a court determines paternity through a genetic test of the child and alleged father. Paternity tests usually answer the question for the court. There are other ways in Texas to establish paternity that do not involve a paternity suit.
Why would I need to establish paternity?
Texas law presumes a husband is the father of his wife’s child; however, an unmarried man has no automatic legal relationship with a child. Although there are instances where the husband wants to contest paternity, typically paternity suits involve establishing fatherhood for an unmarried alleged father. By establishing paternity the biological father gains legal rights and duties to the child. This is an important step to establishing the father’s rights to custody or visitation. It also is the first step to establish court-ordered child support.
How to establish paternity in Texas
There are two ways to establish paternity under the Texas Family Code. An unmarried father can voluntarily establish paternity through an acknowledgement of paternity. An acknowledgement of paternity is an agreement between the mother and father agreeing that the man signing is the biological father. It is a form that they can complete and sign at the hospital or at a later date.
When either parent contests paternity, then either party can pursue a court proceeding to involuntarily establish paternity. If the father does not appear in response to a paternity suit, then the court can issue a default order declaring him the father. If he appears but contests paternity, then the court will order a DNA test of both father and child. The result of the DNA test will typically determine if the court establishes paternity. After the court order establishes paternity the next step will be to obtain court orders for custody, visitation and support.
Why would a parent contest paternity?
Both a mother and alleged father may contest paternity in Texas.
Alleged fathers typically contest paternity in Texas because they believe they are not the biological father. In some cases the alleged father believes he is the father but also believes contesting paternity will avoid child support.
Mothers sometimes contest paternity as well. The most common reason is because the father has not had a relationship with the child and they believe contesting paternity will prevent the father from taking steps to form a relationship.
If the court finds evidence to conclude paternity exists, then the court issue an order finding paternity. After that, it will be up to the parents to decide what they want to do with the legal relationship between father and child.
Why would a father hire an attorney for a paternity suit?
As a father you may find yourself part of a paternity suit in Texas because you contest paternity or want to establish paternity.
If you do not believe you are the father of the child, then you need to make sure you defend yourself from paternity allegations. While a DNA test may find that you are not the father, you may feel pressure from the mother or a government agency acting on her behalf to voluntarily agree to paternity. You have a legal right to challenge paternity. If you voluntarily agree to paternity and find out later you are not the biological father, then it may be difficult or impossible to later challenge paternity. If it turns out you are the child’s father, then the next step will usually involve proceedings to establish child support. An experienced child support lawyer can help make sure that the child support order does not exceed state law for support orders.
On the other hand, if you decided to pursue establishing paternity, then you would also benefit from hiring an attorney. Your attorney can ensure the court orders DNA testing from a reputable facility and combat any challenges to valid results. Similarly, if the court finds paternity, then your next step will be to obtain court orders for custody, visitation and child support. Your attorney can help build the case for favorable custody orders early in the case.
Why should the mother hire an attorney for a paternity suit?
The mother will face many of the same issues on either side of a paternity suit in Texas. A mother on either side may also need to prepare for further proceedings on custody and child support if the court decides paternity exists. It will help if your attorney gets involved in the case early on.
The Attorney General of Texas or a county domestic relations office may agree to represent you in a paternity suit to establish child support. That will get an attorney on your case for free; however, they are primarily concerned with child support and may be unwilling to fight over custody issues that are important to you.