Paternity Defined – Texas Family Code

Under the Texas Family Code (Tex. Fam. Code) a “Parent” is defined as the mother, a man presumed to be the father, a man legally determined to be the father, a man who has been adjudicated to be the father by a court of competent jurisdiction, a man who acknowledged his paternity under applicable law, or an adoptive mother or father. 

The father-child relationship is established between a man and a child by:

  1. an unrebutted presumption of the man’s paternity of the child under Section 160.204;
  2. an effective acknowledgment of paternity by the man under Subchapter D, unless the acknowledgment has been rescinded or successfully challenged;
  3. an adjudication of the man’s paternity;
  4. the adoption of the child by the man; or
  5. the man’s consenting to assisted reproduction by his wife under Subchapter H, which resulted in the birth of a child.

Tex. Fam. Code Sec. 160, otherwise known as the Uniform Parentage Act, states that a man is presumed to be the father of a child if:

  1. he is married to the mother of the child and the child is born during the marriage;
  2. he is married to the mother of the child and the child is born before the 301st day after the date the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce;
  3. he married the mother of the child before the birth of the child in apparent compliance with law, even if the attempted marriage is or could be declared invalid, and the child is born during the invalid marriage or before the 301st day after the date the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce;
  4. he married the mother of the child after the birth of the child in apparent compliance with law, regardless of whether the marriage is or could be declared invalid, he voluntarily asserted his paternity of the child, and:
    a)     the assertion is in a record filed with the bureau of vital statistics;
    b)    he is voluntarily named as the child’s father; or
    c)     he promised in a record to support the child as his own; or
  5. during the first two years of the child’s life, he continuously resided in the household in which the child resided and he represented to others that the child was his own.

A presumption of paternity established under this section may be rebutted only by:

  1. an adjudication under Subchapter G; or
  2. the filing of a valid denial of paternity by a presumed father in conjunction with the filing by another person of a valid acknowledgment of paternity.

A presumed father of a child may sign a denial of paternity.  However, the denial is valid only if:

  1. an acknowledgment of paternity signed or otherwise authenticated by another man is filed under Section 160.305 of the Texas Family Code;
  2. the denial is in a record and is signed or otherwise authenticated under penalty of perjury; and
  3. the presumed father has not previously:
    a)     acknowledged paternity of the child, unless the previous acknowledgment has been rescinded under Section 160.307 of the Texas Family Code or successfully challenged under Section 160.308 of the Texas Family Code; or
    b)    been adjudicated to be the father of the child.

The rules for adjudication of paternity are as follows: 

  1. The paternity of a child having a presumed, acknowledged, or adjudicated father may be disproved only by admissible results of genetic testing excluding that man as the father of the child or identifying another man as the father of the child.
  2. Unless the results of genetic testing are admitted to rebut other results of genetic testing, the man identified as the father of a child under section 160.505 shall be adjudicated as being the father of the child. 
  3. Unless the results of genetic testing are admitted to rebut other results of genetic testing, the a man excluded as the father of a child by genetic testing shall be adjudicated as not being the father of the child. 
  4. If the court finds that genetic testing under Section 160.505 does not identify or exclude a man as the father of a child, the court may not dismiss the proceeding.  In that event, the results of genetic testing and other evidence are admissible to adjudicate the issue of paternity.

Under Tex. Fam. Code Sec. 160.608, if there is an established relationship between the presumed father and the child, the court may deny genetic testing and adjudicate the presumed father as the father of the child. 

In In re Shockley, 123 S.W.3d 642, 652-53 (Tex. App.–El Paso 2003, no pet.) the court ruled a mother was equitably estopped from litigating a child’s parentage due to the fact that she refused to consent to DNA testing in prior years and brought suit for parentage more than four years after the birth of a child to question the parentage of the father.  The mother then consented to DNA testing that showed another man to be the father of the child, but the court refused to recognize the DNA tests and her claim was barred.