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What happens in a case of mistaken paternity?

Because paternity can be established in Texas through both biological parents signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity, there is room for error in the absence of scientific testing. Although an individual may believe himself to be the father of a child, later information might cause a contrary belief. It is wise for parents to be sure of parentage of a child before signing an AOP to ensure that such an error is not made. However, a man who later believes that he is not actually the father of a child may file a petition to legally end the relationship between himself and the child.

If a man files a petition on the basis of mistaken paternity, a court must determine whether the individual is eligible to pursue the action. If the man meets the legal standards, the case may proceed with both he and the child participating in genetic testing. In a case in which a legal father is shown not to be the biological father of a child, the court may terminate the legal relationship.

It is important to understand that an individual seeking the termination of a parental relationship due to mistaken paternity must seek his own legal counsel. The Office of the Attorney General is unable to assist in this respect. The OAG will be notified of such petitions being filed. Termination of a parental relationship will also end the requirement to pay further child support although amounts in arrears and related interest are still that individual's responsibility.

Before acknowledging paternity, an alleged father may want to verify the issue through genetic testing to ensure that later doubts are not a problem. An individual acknowledging paternity with an AOP should understand the legal implications of the agreement, including the obligation to provide support for the child in question. The advice of a family law attorney may be helpful if there are doubts or concerns.

Source: Attorney General of Texas, "Mistaken Paternity", November 03, 2014

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