Paternity fraud occurs when a woman claims a man is her child's biological father or allows him to be presumed to be the father when she either knows or suspects that he isn't.
Sometimes a woman will identify a man to whom she isn't married as her child's father, so he signs a paternity affidavit to establish his paternity. In many cases, a man is considered a child's presumed father because he is or was recently married to the mother.
Under Texas law, men have a "presumption of paternity" in a number of situations. These include cases in which the child is born:
- during the marriage or by the 300th day after the marriage ended
- after the marriage if he voluntarily listed himself as the father on the birth certificate
- or if he lived with the child during their first two years and told others he was the child's father
It can be devastating for a man to learn that he's been the victim of paternity fraud -- whether he finds out through DNA evidence, some other medical evidence that shows he couldn't be biologically related to a child or a woman admits it. It can be equally and perhaps more devastating to the child.
There can be a financial toll as well. What if a man has been making child support payments for that child? Can he be reimbursed? That all depends. While paternity fraud isn't a crime, a man can take civil action against a woman to seek reimbursement of his child support.
However, the court's responsibility is to do what's in the child's best interests. If a man has not only financially supported a child but acted as their father, he may not only be denied reimbursement but be ordered to continue support payments. He may also be ordered to continue payments if they are necessary to prevent the child from having to rely on government assistance programs or are otherwise in the child's best interests.
If you learn that you're the victim of paternity fraud, it's essential to determine what your legal options are. An attorney with experience in this area can provide valuable guidance during a traumatic time.