After six years and three congressional sessions, Texas legislators have changed a law that previously prohibited victims of paternity fraud from challenging child support obligations.
According to Texas law, if a man is married and a child is born during the marriage, that man is legally the child's father. An unmarried man can also establish paternity by signing a formal contract, and has four years to challenge paternity before it becomes permanent. In either case, no genetic test is required to establish paternity, so situations inevitably arise where a man is legally the father of a child who is not biologically his. Under old Texas law, he is bound to support that child financially, and has no course of action to terminate the parent-child relationship if he is the victim of paternity fraud.
The new law allows men to use the results of a genetic test to prove they are not fathers, and to petition Texas courts to terminate the parent-child relationship and child support. Courts will now be required to terminate the relationship if a test confirms no genetic connection between the presumed father and child.
There will be a grace period until September 1, 2012, for all men who were victims of paternity fraud to petition the courts for termination of the parent-child relationship. Men who discover they are victims of paternity fraud after September 1, 2012, will have one year from the time of discovery to petition the courts.
The new law does not protect adoptive fathers or fathers of children conceived via artificial insemination. In addition, the new law only terminates child support payments, and does require the state to pay back any support already paid at the time of the petition.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of paternity fraud, it is important to contact an experienced Plano family law attorney to help you understand the new law and how it applies to your particular case.