Family Law (Other than Divorce)
Presumption of Paternity
A man is presumed to be the father of a child under a few different scenarios, including: if he was married to the child’s mother when the child is born or if the child was born within 301 days of the end of his marriage to the child’s mother.
If the presumed father is not the biological father, there are two ways to establish legal paternity for the biological father. One way is for the biological father to file an official acknowledgment of paternity in conjunction with the presumed father filing a denial of paternity. Another way is for a family court to adjudicate the issue of paternity through a paternity or parentage suit.
Claiming or Disputing Paternity
There are many reasons that someone would file a paternity suit. A woman may seek to establish the biological father’s paternity in order to secure child support from the child’s father. A man may want to establish paternity to secure the right to custody of the child. In some cases, a man may be trying to prove that he is not the father of the child.
A parentage suit can be initiated by the mother; the presumed father if there is one; a man who is claiming or denying paternity of the child; a person closely related to the mother if the mother is deceased; a child support enforcement agency; an authorized adoption agency; or even by the child himself or herself. The man whose paternity is in question must be a party to the suit. Genetic testing is typically the method used to prove parentage.
Whatever the motivation for filing a parentage suit, it is important to know that in situations where the child has a presumed father (such as if the mother was married when the child was born or was married while pregnant with the child) the suit must be filed before the child’s fourth birthday. If the child does not have a presumed father, there is no time limit for adjudicating paternity.
Termination of Parental Rights
Termination or relinquishment of parental rights is an issue that Texas courts take very seriously whether the termination is voluntary or involuntary.
Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights
A parent may voluntarily terminate parental rights under certain circumstances. This is not a decision to be made lightly. The termination of parental rights involves signing an irrevocable affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights.
A family court may approve voluntary termination if doing so is in the best interest of the child, such as when the parent has no interest at all in helping to raise or support the child. If the parental rights are terminated, that parent no longer has an obligation to pay child support, but he or she also no longer has any right to access to the child. A parent cannot relinquish parental rights solely to avoid paying child support.
Voluntary termination is most common in cases involving adoption of the child. For example, this could be adoption by a stepparent who is the spouse of the parent retaining parental rights, or it could be when both biological parents are terminating their rights so that the child may be adopted by another family.
Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
A court can involuntarily terminate someone’s parental rights for a few reasons. The most common reasons include:
- Alcohol or drug abuse that causes the baby to be born addicted to alcohol or drugs
- Endangerment of the child
- Refusal to provide support
In some cases, mental illness or imprisonment may also be grounds for termination of parental rights.
The Texas Department of Family Services, commonly referred to as Child Protective Services, or CPS, is often involved in a termination suit if there have been allegations of abuse or neglect of the child.
A Texas Department of Family Services/CPS investigation can be opened based on something as simple as an anonymous phone call alleging abuse or neglect. While a CPS investigation does not automatically mean that the government is seeking to terminate parental rights, it can mean an intrusive, highly-emotional investigation into a family’s personal lives that can last for years. If you are being investigated by CPS, even if you do not think involuntary termination of your parental rights is at stake, please contact us that you understand your rights at every stage of the investigation.
Other Family Law Matters
This firm also handles additional family law matters, such as:
- Cohabitation Agreements
- Domestic Violence Issues
- Family Violence Issues
- Grandparents’ Rights
- Postnuptial Agreements
- Prenuptial Agreements
- Protective Orders
- Stepparent Adoption
- Temporary Orders