When a baby is born to a married couple, there is a presumption that the husband is the legal father of the child. That gives him parental rights and responsibilities including child support. However, if you suspect that you are not the father, there are options for you. The Texas Family Code allows you to ask the court to end the parent-child relationship between you and the child under certain conditions. This will be a case to determine mistaken paternity when you have been ordered to pay child support but you believe that you are not the child’s genetic father.
You can exercise your rights to terminate the parental relationship with the child even if you signed an Acknowledgement of Paternity or had a judge establish paternity. The only condition is that you did not take a DNA test beforehand. You are still required to meet the existing child support obligations you still owe. However, you can terminate any future obligations to pay child support.
Challenging Child Support Obligations For Mistaken Paternity
File A Petition
You or your attorney can file the petition to the court asking the court to terminate the parent-child relationship. You will need to meet the legal requirements below.
You’re not the biological father of the child
You mistakenly concluded you were the biological father due to misrepresentation
You signed an Acknowledgement of Paternity or had a judge establish you as the legal father without first getting a paternity test. It is required to show that you did not contest parentage at the time because you mistakenly believed you were the biological father.
There was no legal adoption of your children on your part
You are not the intended father based on a gestational agreement validated by the court
You did not agree to assisted reproduction to conceive the child
The petition was filed within two years of the date you discovered the mistaken paternity
Attend Pretrial Hearing
You and your attorney will need to present your case about why there is a strong possibility that you are not the biological father of a child. If you can sufficiently call paternity into question, the Texas court may legally require you to take a paternity test.
Go For Genetic Testing
You will need to go for genetic testing with an accredited lab.
Attend Final Hearing
If the paternity test has established that you are not the genetic parent, the judge will sign a court order terminating the parent-child relationship. This will mean you need not pay future child support. However, you will still have to pay the child support obligation that you currently owe.
Contact Us For A No-Cost Case Review
Want to challenge your obligations due to mistaken paternity? Let the award-winning Family Law experts at Sean Lynch + Associates law firm help you prepare your legal case. We have decades of experience in family law.
Divorce is stressful. But the pain of seeing your marriage end is nothing in comparison to the impact of losing custody of your children. To have a judge tell you that your kids would be better off living with someone else is truly gut-wrenching. Can a father regain custody of his children? Yes. It isn’t easy, but it can be done, and here are some guidelines to help you.
What is the Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody?
We’ll start by explaining some basic terms. Most people think of “custody” in the sense of who has the kids. That’s correct, but in fact, it’s only half of the story.
In other words, if the parents have Joint Legal Custody, both have the right to be involved in making decisions about the children’s schooling, medical care, and other issues.
What Does Conservatorship Mean?
People get confused because it is not unusual for the court to set up separate legal and physical custody arrangements. In Texas, when discussing “custody,” the courts use the word conservatorship.
A parent who has legal custody is considered a conservator.
For example, the judge sometimes awards the parents joint legal custody, but only one parent will get sole physical custody. And occasionally, the court will award one parent sole legal and physical custody.
You Have the Right to Appeal the Court’s Child Custody Decision
In Texas, family law courts are required to make custody decisions based on what they believe is in the best interests of the children. That may sound appealing at first—until you realize that what a judge thinks is “best” for the kids may not seem completely unfair to you.
After the court has finalized your divorce, you have 30 days to appeal the ruling. (This applies to custody decisions and any other rulings.) If you wish to appeal the court’s decisions, we highly recommend you get the assistance of an experienced Texas divorce attorney. Also, be aware that neither party can remarry for 30 days after the divorce is finalized.
A Father Should Make Sure He Really Wants to Regain Custody
Before you decide to take on the fight to regain custody, we suggest one thing: Make sure this is really what you want. Are you wanting this because the court’s ruling hurt your pride? Are you hoping to “get back” at your ex?
These are normal emotions, but they are not good reasons for a parent to try to regain custody of the kids. The judge took them away from you because he or she believed it was in the best interest of the kids. You should want them back for the same reason.
Start by Looking at Your Mistakes if You are a Father Seeking to Regain Child Custody
If a father wants to regain custody of his children, he should start not by looking at the court, but by doing some honest self-reflection. Where did you go wrong? There are four main reasons why you may have lost custody:
Drug and/or alcohol abuse
Child abuse or neglect
Violation of a previous court order
As you can imagine, these are serious offenses. It will not be enough just to ask the judge to overlook them.
A Father Usually Needs the Help of an Attorney to Regain Custody of His Children
You may be aware that it is possible to end your marriage without hiring a divorce attorney. That approach can work for some couples, but for a father to win back custody of your children, he probably will need to hire a family law attorney. These cases can get complicated, so we recommend finding one who is experienced in custody cases and has a track record of success.
A related note: If you have been wrongly accused of child abuse or another offense, it is particularly wise to consult with a skilled Texas family law attorney.
To Regain Custody, You Will Need to Request a Court Re-evaluation
A family law attorney can help you request an in-home Custody Evaluation. This evaluation is usually conducted by a licensed social worker, therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist. The evaluation is based on the guidelines outlined in Section 107.101 of the Texas Family Code. The evaluator will then submit a recommendation or written report to the court.
As you might guess, if you are going to have your case re-evaluated, it’s essential to have a good home. This does not mean you have to have a large, expensive house—only that you can provide a home that is clean and safe. You also don’t need to have a home stuffed with toys. Learn more about the Tarrant County Custody Evaluation process.
While You Are Trying to Regain Custody, Be Sure to Follow any Court Orders
When a father is trying to regain custody of his kids, it’s important to avoid any big mistakes.
One of the most basic things you can do to improve your chances is to follow the court’s orders. For example, don’t take your kids out of town if the judge has told you not to. Conversely, if the court has ordered you to get treatment for drug addiction, attend parenting classes, or make child support payments, do it.
You also need to be very careful about your activities and who you spend time with—especially romantic partners. Keep in mind, if you are a parent trying to regain custody of your kids, your ex probably is trying to hang on to them. It’s not enough to think that you are the better parent—you have to demonstrate it to the court.
It Takes Time for a Father to Regain Custody of His Kids
The time spent waiting for the court to make a decision can seem like forever. But courts can move slowly, and with the pandemic going on, there may be an even longer delay.
Therefore, it’s wise to be patient. It’s also wise to be productive. Make sure you spend as much time with your children as you are permitted to have, and make sure that time is meaningful. Don’t just meet the court requirements of the court begrudgingly, try to exceed them. And make every effort to cooperate with your ex in a sincere and respectful way.
Speaking of your ex, here’s one more thing to consider: Do you have to have sole custody? Would you consider accepting joint legal and physical custody? If a father who wants to regain custody of his children is open to compromise, he may have more success with his ex—and with the judge.
You Don’t Have to Go Through It Alone
Child custody cases can be complicated and emotionally draining. If you need a Texas family law attorney to help you with your custody case, Sean Lynch + Associates is here to help. We are experienced divorce lawyers who can serve you efficiently, compassionately, and affordably. Contact us today to schedule a no-cost 30-minute case consultation, 817-668-5879. Because even if your marriage has come to an end, your children’s future is just beginning.