In a legal context, “paternity” means the establishment of the identity of a child’s father. There are many situations in which paternity must be legally established—whether it is a child custody, child support, adoption, or inheritance case. Typically paternity is proved through a DNA test.

If you are looking to establish paternity in Texas or have questions about how paternity works in the Lone Star State, here are five things you should know about paternity laws.   

  1. The husband is typically presumed to be the father. Under the Texas Family Code’s Section 160, which covers a range of parent-child regulations, a man is presumed to be the father of a child in a number of common-sense scenarios, including if “he is married to the mother of the child and the child is born during the marriage” or “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,” or even, “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.” 

2. Children have rights whether their parents are married or not. Section 160 of the Texas Family Code also specifies that “a child born to parents who are not married to each other has the same rights under the law as a child born to parents who are married to each other.” And as Section 151 spells out, there are no special duties assigned to mothers and fathers in parenting — the responsibility of a parent to a child is the same regardless of gender, including “care, control, protection, and reasonable discipline of the child” as well as “providing the child with clothing, food, shelter, medical and dental care, and education.” 

3. Paternity suits can happen at any time. If a child does not have a presumed father, a paternity suit can be brought up at any time, even if the child in question has reached adulthood. However, if the child does have a presumed father but paternity needs to be confirmed, the paternity suit typically needs to be brought within four years of the child’s birth. 

4. Genetic testing will determine paternity. Section 160 of the Texas Family Code lays out a specific list of possibilities for genetic testing, noting, “genetic testing may consist of one or more samples, or a combination of samples, of blood, buccal cells, bone, hair, or other body tissue or fluid.” Typically, though, it’s blood, and the courts will determine who pays for it, though typically, it’s an expense that’s shared between the mother and the presumed father. 

5. Genetic tests are not 100% accurate for establishing paternity. If a DNA test shows that a man is not the father in a paternity case, the court will likely dismiss the case. Genetic tests are not 100 percent certain. However, if the presumed father is at least 99 percent likely to be the parent, then the court will move forward with the custody, child support or visitation case. The Texas Family Code does note that a presumed father can attempt to rebut the findings of a genetic test, but only with another genetic test. 

This blog does not constitute legal advice. If you are facing a paternity issue in Texas, it is important to work with a family law attorney. We encourage you to call us at 512-580-2449 to discuss your child custody case.