This guide outlines the steps necessary for an adjudicated father to terminate his child support obligations once he discovers he 1) is not the biological father, and 2) was misled into believing the child was his.
In 2012, the 82nd Legislature amended the Texas Family Code to allow courts to terminate the duty to pay child support in circumstances of mistaken paternity. Under the new law, it is possible, under certain circumstances, for a man to have his child support obligations terminated if the results of genetic testing prove the man is not the biological father. See Tex. Fam. Code 154.006(a)(5)
Step 1) Filing the Petition
The first step is to file a verified petition to terminate the parent child relationship pursuant to section 161.005(c) of the Texas Family Code. The Petition must allege facts that show the man is not the biological father of the child and that he signed an acknowledgment of paternity or failed to contest paternity because of a misrepresentation that led him to believe he was the biological father. A man has 2 years from the date of discovery to file the verified Petition. Tex. Fam. Code 161.005(e) Service of Citation and other procedural requirements apply.
Step 2) PreTrial Hearing
Next, the court will hold a pretrial hearing to determine whether the petitioner has established a meritorious prima facie case for termination of the parent-child relationship. It helps at this point if the Petitioner already has DNA test results (it can be a through-the-mail DNA test) that preclude him as the father.
Step 3) Legal DNA Test
If the Petitioner has met his burden, then the court will order a legal DNA test and samples will be taken from the Petitioner and the child(ren). Samples for this test will be taken in person at a lab facility.
Step 4) Obtaining the Court Order
Assuming the DNA test results preclude the Petitioner as the biological father, the Court will order the parent-child relationship terminated and end the duty to pay child support. Note that this will not erase any overdue child support obligations or entitle the Petitioner to any restitution from the mother.
Additional resources provided by the author
The steps outlined above are general, and one should at least consult with an attorney before attempting this on his own. If this is not done correctly, the Petitioner will likely remain obligated to pay child support -- in most instances -- until the child reaches the age of 18.
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