Texas law concerning cases of ‘mistaken paternity’ undergoes significant change

For many years, men who had been ordered by Texas courts to pay child support even though they knew they were not the father of the child faced very tough odds. In fact, child support cases involving mistaken paternity were nearly notoriously difficult – if not impossible – to win due to the relatively strict state of the law.

However, it eventually became apparent that this rather strict legislative stance was untenable due to the ease and low cost of DNA testing.

“It had been an issue because it’s not fair,” said Cheryl Alsandor, a Texas family law attorney. “On one hand, a DNA test can clear a defendant of a crime years later, but it didn’t seem to be fair that it couldn’t clear a man of paternity.”

Interestingly, the state legislature has now taken steps to rectify this situation.

This past year, the state legislature voted unanimously to change the law in mistaken paternity cases.

Specifically, the Texas Family Code has been amended to allow men who are listed in court records as the father of a child/children without a DNA test to file a petition challenging their presumed paternity.

In the event the DNA test demonstrates that they are not the father of the child/children, the court will issue an order of termination, meaning they are no longer responsible for child support.

However, there are three important considerations concerning this new law:

  • Only future child support payments are covered by the termination order. Thus, even if mistaken paternity is established, the man will still have to comply with all previous child support orders.
  • The new law doesn’t apply to adoptive fathers and fathers who entered in assisted reproduction agreements
  • A petition protesting paternity can be filed until September 1, 2012, regardless of when men discovered that they were not the father of the child/children. However, after this deadlines passes, men will have only one year from the date they found out that they were not the father to file the petition.

To learn more about payment or nonpayment of child support, or other post-divorce issues, contact an experienced and skilled legal professional.

Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog …

This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Related Resources:

Houston man must pay child support for kid who is not his (The Houston Chronicle)

Houston man forced to pay child support for child that DNA proves isn’t his (KHOU – 11)