I just found out I’m not the father of the child I’ve been raising. What changes from this point forward?
In Texas, a man is the presumed father of a child if he was married to the child’s mother when the child was born; he was married to the child’s mother any time during the 300 days before the child was born; he married the mother after the child was born and voluntarily claimed paternity of the child; or lastly, during the first two years of the child’s life, he continuously lived with the child and represented to others that the child was his own. However, in 2011 the Texas legislature enacted a law that enables a man to contest the paternity of a child. It may be possible to obtain a court ruling that reverses your standing as the legal father of a child.
The new law contains a provision limiting the period in which a man can file a petition to contest paternity. A man wishing to contest paternity must file a petition no later than one year from the date on which he obtains information indicating that he is not the father. In order to obtain relief under the new law, you must have failed to contest paternity because of a belief that you were actually the father based on misrepresentations made to you. Under this new law, a man who believes he is not the father of a child may request genetic testing in order to determine whether they are the genetic parent of the child.
One question that you might have is whether you can stop paying child support once you find out the child is not yours. The short answer is, no. Not unless the court orders that you can stop paying child support. You may have the option of asking the court to terminate the parent-child relationship between you and the child if you find out you’re not the genetic father and you meet certain other requirements. This would end your obligation to pay future child support, but not your obligation to pay child support you already owe.
The other question that you might be wondering is what happens if you would still like to have the ability to spend time with the child despite your rights and duties being terminated as the legal father of the child? Even if the parent-child relationship is terminated, a man may request the court to order period of possession or access to the child following the termination. The court may order periods of possession or access to the child only if the court determines that denial of possession or access would significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional well-being. However, it is important to note that the law directs the court to focus on the child’s well-being, and not on the man’s desire to continue seeing the child.
You may feel connected to the child and may want to continue to be a part of their life or you may balance your own self-interest of not wanting to be responsible for a child that is not biologically yours. If you find yourself in this difficult and emotional situation, the Werner Law Group is here to help you balance your choices and help you determine the best course of action.