A significant deadline for Texas men who suspect they are wrongly being forced to pay child support is coming up at the end of this month. Thanks to a law signed by Gov. Rick Perry last year, men are now allowed to challenge paternity claims to avoid paying child support for children who aren't biologically theirs. But the grace period for challenging older paternity cases ends Sept. 1.
Under the old Texas law, a man was legally considered to be the father of a child born within his marriage, regardless of whether he was biologically. Even just being at the hospital for a partner's childbirth could result in a false claim of paternity. Consequently, if a couple split up, the man could be forced to financially support that child.
A man could request a DNA test before being legally named the father of the child in question, but contesting the ruling after his name went on the birth certificate made little difference, even if a test later proved he wasn't the father.
The new law, however, which was signed last May, allows men to contest child support obligations with paternity test results. Courts are now required to terminate child support orders in these cases and end any legal sanctions against men who can show they've been unfairly hit with them.
As part of the new law, a grace period was established for men who were targeted before the law took effect. Men who suspected they were making payments for a child that wasn't theirs before last May have until Sept. 1 -- less than two more weeks -- to contest their paternity. Men who make that discovery after that date can still challenge their child support obligations, but they must file a petition in court within one calendar year. Even then, they may not recoup the payments they've already made.
If you believe you're in such a situation, a family law attorney can help you with the process of determining paternity and filing a petition in court. Not doing so in an efficient matter could mean several thousands of dollars in payments, not to mention severe penalties for failing to pay for a child who isn't yours.
Source: NewsChannel 10, "Deadline quickly approaching for paternity test," Angelina Perez, Aug. 17, 2012