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Mistaken Paternity


“Luke, I’m not your father.” A person may seek to terminate the parent-child relationship for a number of reasons. One of those is the discovery that one is not the biological father of the child.

Generally, once a parent-child relationship is established by a court it is not reversible. However, there are certain exceptions. The Texas Family Code allows a man who was not married to the mother of the child to terminate the parent-child relationship when he mistakenly thought he was the father of the child.

First, the man seeking termination must show that the court-ordered parent-child relationship was established without genetic testing. That can happen when the father signed an acknowledgment of paternity or failed to contest paternity in the case that established the parent-child relationship. Secondly, the man must show there was a misrepresentation that caused him to believe that he fathered the child.

A case to terminate the parent-child relationship must be filed within one year of the date the man became aware of the facts indicating he is not the genetic father. Exceeding that time limit will bar the non-genetic father from filing a petition to terminate the parent-child relationship and he will continue to be responsible under any prior court order for payment of child support and health care expenses for the child.

Cindy Diggs, Board Certified in Family Law and Civil Trial Law, Diggs & Sadler 5300 Memorial Drive, Suite 900, Houston, Texas 77007, (713) 766-5355.  

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