For many years, husbands and boyfriends who had mistakenly been declared the father of a child either by Court order or a paternity proceeding, without the benefit of a paternity test, had no relief – they could not stop court ordered child support nor correct the Court order that declared them father of a child who really was not their child. In 2011, the Texas Legislature finally corrected this problem by passing law that would allow “mistaken paternity” fathers to be able to petition the court to terminate a child support order when he discovers that he is the the father of the child.
The parent-child Relationship and duty to pay child support in circumstances involving mistaken paternity may be terminated —
- when the child marries, or
- when the child’s disabilities are removed (i.e. child declared an adult), or
- when the child dies, or
- when a Court finds that the child is 18 years of age and has failed to comply with enrollment or attendance of high school, or
- when an Order is entered terminating the parent-child relationship between the parent obligated to pay child support and the child based on the results of genetic testing excluding the obligor as the child’s genetic father, or
- when the child enlists in the armed forces of the United States and beings active service.
A man may file to have the parent-child relationship terminated between him and the child even if he previously signed an acknowledgement of paternity without obtaining genetic testing or he as adjudicated (declared) to be the father of the child in a previous proceeding such as a divorce or paternity proceeding in which testing did not occur.
What must the alleged father prove in order to be successful?
- That he is not the genetic father of the child
- That when he signed the acknowledgment of paternity or failed to contest parentage because of the mistaken belief at the time that he was the child’s genetic father based on misrepresentations that led him to that conclusion.
Who cannot file for such a termination?
If a man is the child’s adoptive father or if the child was conceived by assisted reproduction and the man consented to the assisted reproduction by his wife or the man is the intend father of the child under a gestational agreement validated by the Court.
When must the petition to terminate be filed?
A petition must be filed no later than two years from the date on which a man becomes aware of the facts alleged in the petition indicating that the petitioner is not the child’s genetic father. If the results of genetic testing excludes the petitioner as the child’s genetic father, the Court must render an order terminating the parent-child relationship.
What happens with the child support order?
If the petition is determined not to be the child’s genetic father, the petitioner’s child support obligation for “future” child support ends. BUT all child support that the petitioner was obligated in the form of child support arrearages or a money judgment existing on that date remains due, WITHOUT interest.
What happens to the alleged father’s right to have visitation with the child?
The petitioner may ask that te have periods of possession and access to the child after termination and if the court determines that denial of such periods of possession or access would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional well being the Court may order that the terminated father shall have access and possession of the child after termination.
What may be done to address the mental and psychological impact the alleged father, the mother and the child?
The Court may include a provision that orders the parties and the child to participate in counseling with a mental health professional.
If you are a man who has now discovered that you are not the father of child and you are under a child support order for that child, time is of essence – you only have two years from discovering these facts to proceed to court. If you need assistance, please contact Beverly J. Greely, Attorney at Law at (713) 880-5151 for an appointment.