Paternity in Texas
In Texas, paternity suits are permitted and, indeed, have become quite prevalent, in recent years. A brief overview of such suits will help in the understanding of this type of legal action. All documents to be filed with the court in the case, including the original petition and any affidavits, must contain certain information and be filed in a particular manner required by Texas law. If any party alleges in an affidavit, or sworn pleading, that disclosure of identifying information would jeopardize the health, safety, or liberty of a party or child, the information must be sealed and may be disclosed only by a court order after a hearing is conducted on such allegations.
In any Texas lawsuit in which the question of paternity is raised, a court shall order scientifically accepted paternity testing as provided by Texas law. When the party responding to the lawsuit, or respondent, makes a legal appearance, the court under such circumstance is required under Texas law to order the mother, alleged father, and child to submit to taking blood, body fluid, or tissue samples for the purpose of scientifically accepted parentage testing. The court must also require in such an order a specified type of testing necessary to ascertain the possibility of the alleged father’s paternity and must further require such testing exclude at least 99 percent of the male population from the possibility of being the child’s father, though the court may permit the omission of any further testing if said testing has been conducted sufficiently to establish that the alleged father is not the child’s father or if the costs of testing have reached an amount that the court determines to be the greatest amount that may reasonably be borne by one or more parties to the suit. If the respondent’s initial appearance occurs before the birth of the child, the court shall order the taking of the blood, body fluid, or tissue samples to be made as soon as medically practical after said birth. A court may order a less expensive initial round of tests and then order a second round if the first does not decide the issue.
An order for parentage testing is enforceable by contempt of court. Further, if the person who initiated the lawsuit is the mother or an alleged father and refuses to submit to parentage testing, the court may dismiss the suit; or, if any party refuses to submit to court-ordered parentage testing on proof sufficient to render a default judgment, the court may resolve the question of the paternity against that party. If a parent, or alleged parent, refuses to submit to parentage testing, that fact of such refusal may be legally introduced as evidence as provided by Texas law. If a respondent fails to appear in a paternity suit and, therefore, defaults, or if the allegation of paternity is admitted, the court may waive parentage testing under these circumstances.
If both parents are willing, a properly written agreed order concerning paternity may be drafted and presented to the Court. But, if you are unable to reach such an agreement, and you need to legally establish the paternity of your child, or you have reason to believe that you are the father of a child, or you have reason to believe that you are not the father of a child, you will need the experience of a family law attorney who has been involved in such contested cases to protect your rights and the child’s rights.
Our firm has served the Dallas area for over 40 years, and attorney Jerry W. Melton is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We have the resources to answer all of your questions concerning paternity to present a strong case for you. Please fill out our form online or call 972-980-8000 today to schedule a free consultation.