The presumption of fatherhood in Texas is strong, and positively impacts a father’s claims upon his children. Without the presumption of fatherhood, a father would face significant barriers in asserting his rights. The presumption of fatherhood supports access, rights, and duties, allowing the father to assert his right to help raise his child as he deems fit.
The presumption of fatherhood is determined in the Texas Family Code 160.204 and states that a man is presumed to be the father of a child regardless of genetic testing in the following circumstances:
- If the man is married to the mother and the child is born during the marriage;
- If the child is born before the 301st day after the day the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, invalidity, or divorce;
- If the man is married to the mother before the birth of the child in apparent compliance with the law;
- If the man married the mother after the birth of the child in apparent compliance with the law and voluntarily asserted his paternity of the child by:
a. The assertion in a record filed with the vital statistics unit
b. The man is voluntarily named as the Child’s father on the child’s birth certificate or
c. He promised in a record to support the child as his own occurrence
5. The man during the first two years of the child’s life resided in the household in which the child lived and the man represented to others, (held out) that the child was his own.
These five factual series support the presumption of a father without actually filing a Suit Affecting Parent Child Relationship.
Only the 5th element pertains to men that are not married to the mother of the child. A man that is not married most likely will not legally be presumed the father even if the child is the man’s genetic son or daughter. This is a shock to many men if the relationship between the mother deteriorates and the mother decides to leave town. The father of the child will have no enforceable rights to his genetic son or daughter absent the filing a suit to establish the paternity of the father.
If a father is not married to the mother of his child, then the only option to the father is that he must continuously live with the mother and his child for the first 2 years of the child’s life and hold out to the public that the child is his own. This usually does not happen because of the stress involved in the beginning stages of raising a child and other factors. The father may have an active role in his child’s life but if he does not live with his child continuously for the first 2 years of his child’s life, then the mother may take exclusive possession of his child and move anywhere in the U.S. and the father will have no way to stop her unless he petitions the court for emergency relief, which will likely result in genetic testing.
If you have fathered a child out of wedlock and have not continuously lived with your child for the first 2 years of the child’s life, then it is wise to secure a genetic test and file suit to adjudicate yourself as the father of your child so you may receive the rights of a parent as a matter of law. It is prudent to contact an experienced family law attorney for the process because the innate right to see, guide, and teach your child is too important to forfeit. A man never knows what the future holds in a relationship, and if you have a child out of wedlock it is important to protect your right to be a part of that child’s life. To do this seek an experienced attorney to ensure your right is not infringed or sabotaged.
There are times in life when unintentional pregnancy occurs in the context of fatherhood. There are times when an individual believes he is a father but in the distant future discovers that he is not the genetic father of the child. If a divorce results from this union the man that is not the genetic father of a child may not wish to pay child support for this child for up to 18 years. In these circumstances, a man may wish to terminate his parental responsibilities to the child to avoid paying child support on the child that is not his generically.
Under the Texas Family Code 161.005, a father may terminate his parental rights to a child if (1) he is not the genetic father and (2) a signed acknowledgment of paternity or the father failing to contest parentage of a child was due to a mistaken belief that the man was the genetic father of the child based on misrepresentations that led him to that conclusion.
Basically, the man must not be the genetic father and he must have been deceived by misrepresentations made by the mother or other family members in order to successfully prevail in a termination suit. The man wishing termination must file the suit within two years from first becoming aware that he is not in fact the genetic father of the Child. The importance of this two year limitation is that that it begins when “the man first becomes aware that he is not the genetic father of the child”. This means that a man may be adjudicated and considered the father for ten years but after he discovers or becomes aware that he is not the genetic father of the child he will have an additional two years to file suit and terminate his parental rights.
There are certain limitations under Family Code 161.005 that will not allow a man to terminate the legal relationship. These are:
- The man is an adoptive father;
- The child was conceived by assisted reproduction and the man consented to assisted reproduction by his wife under subchapter H, Chapter 160, or
- The man is the intended father of the child under a gestational agreement validated by a court under subchapter I, Chapter 160.
These three areas of adoption, assisted reproduction, and signing of a gestational agreement will prohibit a man from terminating his parental right or attempting to release himself from the responsibility of being a father, which includes child support.
In most instances a man will bring a termination of parental right because he has been misled into believing that the child is his when in actually the man is not genetically related to the child at all. The parental termination will end child support for minor children that are not genetically related.
A parental termination suit should not be filed before careful thought since it will terminate any rights the man has to the child and most importantly the man will relinquish his right for visitation access and decision making. If you are desiring to terminate the parental rights of a child you should contact an experienced lawyer to ensure that you qualify and that the suit proceeds as smoothly as possible allowing the court to make a ruling that favors your termination.