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How, why and by whom is a paternity suit filed in Texas?

When a woman has a child with a man who is not her husband and he does not willingly claim paternity of the child, she has the option to file a paternity suit. In Texas, if a married woman has a child or if she was married at the time of conception, her husband is presumed to be the child's father. However, that does not prevent her from filing a paternity suit to have another man named the legal father.

Establishing the paternity of a child can have multiple advantages. In addition to mandating a financial obligation for the child, the establishment of paternity can help determine whether there are any genetic medical conditions that the mother and her child should be aware of. Further, many people at some point in their lives want to know who their biological father is.

Usually, it's the mother who files a paternity suit. However, in some cases, men do so to establish their legal relationship with a child. The child also has the option to file a suit, either on his/her own or through a representative. A government agency may file a paternity suit to order child support.

If a particular man is presumed to be the father, the suit must be brought before the child reaches the age of 4 unless a man 1) was misled into believing that he was the father of a child or 2) the parents weren't living together or having sex at the time of conception.

If the parties involved don't agree on paternity, the court can order a blood test. No test provides 100 percent proof that someone is the father of a child. However, if the results are 99 percent or higher, under Texas law, the case moves forward to issues of support, visitation and custody.

If parents cannot decide those matters on their own, the court will decide them. However, if they settle the issues via mediation or with attorneys, the court still needs to approve the settlement. If parents settle the matter on their own, a court may appoint an attorney to protect the interests of the child.

Obviously, it is generally best for children if questions of paternity are decided before they are old enough to be aware that there is an issue. As with all family law matters, when parents can settle their differences amicably, children endure less stress and uncertainty.

Source: FindLaw, "Texas Paternity Suits," accessed July 27, 2015

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