San Antonio Paternity Lawyer
It is usually clear who the mother of a child is, but there is sometimes a question of who the father is. The person named the legal father of the child will have certain rights and duties under the law, such as with regard to custody, visitation, and child support, so it is important to establish who the father actually is.
In those cases where the father is in doubt, the Texas Family Code has specific procedures designed to establish paternity. It is important to understand how the legal system decides these important questions in order to protect your rights.
On this page, we will describe the laws you need to know if paternity is an issue in your case.
Who is a Father?
If you have looked into this issue at all, you may have run into different terms — for example, presumed father, alleged father, and acknowledged father. Before we go any further, it is important to understand these different terms because each one has different implications for your legal rights.
Any effort to establish or deny paternity, either for yourself or someone else, begins with figuring out where things stand right now. And where things stand now depend on what kind of father we are talking about at this time.
So, what are the different kinds of fathers?
A man is a presumed father under any of the following circumstances:
- He is married to the child’s mother, and the child is born during the marriage.
- He was married to the child’s mother, and the child is born within 300 days after the marriage ended (such as a divorce).
- He had an invalid marriage, but the child was born either during or within 300 days of the attempted marriage.
- He married the child’s mother after the birth of the child, and he voluntarily claimed paternity in an official birth certificate or other record.
- He continuously lived in the same household with the child during the first two years of the child’s life, and he represented to others that the child was his own.
Even if someone is a presumed father under one of these 5 criteria, he can still try to rebut that presumption. A presumption of paternity can be rebutted by: (i) a suit to adjudicate parentage (explained below), or (ii) the filing of both a valid denial of paternity by the presumed father and a valid acknowledgement of paternity by another person.
The acknowledgement of paternity and denial of paternity forms can only be signed through a certified entity. To find a certified entity near you, you can call (866) 255-2006 or go to this website.
A man becomes a father if he adopts a child. Adoption is discussed in more detail here.
An alleged father is exactly what it sounds like. It is someone who the mother is alleging is the father of the child, but he is not a presumed father, acknowledged father, adopted father or adjudicated father. If a woman alleges that a man is a father of her child and the alleged father denies it, the courts will adjudicate whether he is the father or not. This process of adjudication, called a paternity suit, is discussed in the next section below.
A man becomes a father if he acknowledges his paternity. A man claiming to be the biological father of the child may, along with the mother, sign an acknowledgement of paternity with the Texas Vital Statistics Unit.
The procedure is different depending on whether or not there is a presumed father (for example, if the mother was married to someone else at the time).
If there is no presumed father, the man simply signs the acknowledgement of paternity and files it. There is no filing fee, and it goes into effect as soon as it is filed.
If there is a presumed father, the man must file the acknowledgement of paternity and the presumed father must file a denial of paternity. As soon as both documents are on file, the acknowledgement goes into effect.
If the presumed father refuses to sign the denial, the courts will have to determine which one should be declared the father. This legal process is discussed in more detail below.
An adjudicated father is someone who is declared the father by a court in a suit to adjudicate paternity. This is discussed in more detail below.
Suit to Adjudicate Paternity
If there is a dispute over paternity, the parties may need to go to court to resolve the issue. A suit to adjudicate paternity typically arises in a few different situations: (i) when a presumed father denies that he is the actual father, (ii) when an alleged father denies that he is the actual father, (iii) when a man who is not a presumed or alleged father claims he is the father, or (iv) when more than one man claims to be the father.
Genetic testing typically plays a central role in any suit for paternity. Any party in a paternity suit can ask the court to order genetic testing of the child, the man claiming or denying paternity, and other individuals involved in the case.
The court will presume a man is in fact the father if the genetic testing indicates a 99% probability of the man’s paternity. The genetic testing must be performed by an accredited laboratory that meets the criteria of the Texas Family Code. There are several such labs in the San Antonio area, such as this one.
If the results show a less than 99% probability of fatherhood, the court will not presume paternity and will have to look at other evidence. This other evidence can include the testimony of the parties, whether conception was possible, and even the physical resemblance of the child to the man.
Contact our San Antonio Paternity Lawyer
If you are trying to establish or deny paternity of yourself or someone else, you should be aware that this area of the law can be complicated. Depending on the facts of your case, you may need to go to court to get a final determination of who the father of the child is. This determination can have major consequences in the life of the child, and in issues of visitation, custody, and child support. If you need legal assistance on a paternity matter, contact our experienced San Antonio attorneys today for a free consultation.