January 16th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Texas men have until September 1, 2012 to contest paternity of a child according to a statute that was passed last year. Read about it here (PR Web, 1/12/12).
The new law allows a man to request genetic testing of a child and, if the test disproves paternity, cease child support payments. It also allows him to continue his relationship with the child even though he no longer has to pay.
“For decades now, Texas courts and judges have forced men who were not the biological father to pay child support; even to the point of denying their real children food and shelter. The misery this has caused some families has been unbearable. Good husbands and fathers have been thrown in jail for not paying child support for children that everyone involved acknowledged were not their children,” continues Fuller.
This year, the Texas legislature finally acknowledged that this was just wrong, and passed a statute to right this injustice, but there is a very narrow window to take advantage of this change. Section 161.005 of the Texas Family Code was amended effective May 12, 2011 to allow men previously adjudicated to be “fathers” to petition the court for DNA testing. Under the amended wording of the statute, if DNA testing shows they are not the biological father of the child, the court must terminate the parent child relationship – and along with it – the child support order.
But there’s an important caveat. Any man who knows, or who a court decides should have known, that a child was not fathered by him, has only until September 1st to request the test and be absolved of financial responsibility. After September 1st, if he knows or should have known the child wasn’t his, he’s stuck paying support until the child reaches adulthood.
Men who believe they’re the father of a child born after September 1st will be fully protected by the law. They’ll be able to request DNA testing any time and be relieved of the obligation to pay if the test shows they’re not the dad.
The new Texas law is a giant step toward sanity in child support cases. Until its effective date, paternity fraud was essentially a free ride for mothers. With a little artful story-telling, they could choose who would act as the father of their child whether he was or not. That meant a mother could opt for the higher-earning man, the nicer man, the more adventurous man, etc. to whom to deliver the happy news “Guess what honey, we’re pregnant!”
Typically, he was either overjoyed or at least willing to take up the task of being a father with no questions asked. If Mom became unhappy with him for some reason, it was a simple matter for her to dump him, keep the child and receive his support. If she did, the bloom was off the romantic rose for him; it’s at that time that a man starts to notice that junior has dark hair while he’s a blond. But, under the old law, by then it was too late. If he’d formed a relationship with the child, courts were hesitant to allow him to opt out, even though he wasn’t the dad. Of course many non-fathers elected to continue playing the paternal role because they and the child had bonded in ways too real and too important to destroy.
Now Texas law allows men to ask the pertinent questions at any time, but if a man has played the paternal role, he has only until September 1st to do so. Still, the Texas law is that rarest of birds – a family law that gives power to men.
Texas men, know your rights! The time for requesting a DNA test is passing. September 1st may be too late for you to ascertain once and for all, whether the child is yours or not. Act now!