If you’ve ever watched daytime talk shows, you’ve witnessed a nightmare. A Mom confesses to cheating and reveals that the Dad might not be the genetic-father. Sadly, these stories rarely end well. The host pulls the DNA results out of an envelope and proclaims, “You are NOT the Father!”
The Dad had no idea that he was raising another man’s child and may have even been ordered to pay child support for years before being embarrassed on national TV.
The long standing tradition in Texas in such situations has been to require Dad to continue paying the child-support even after such a revelation.
There was a small exception that allowed another man to step in his place as the child’s father, but often the Mom didn’t know, or wouldn’t tell, who she suspected the actual genetic-father was.
Basically, the Dad was duped and was required to pay child support on someone else’s child for 18+ years.
Well a couple of weeks ago, May 12, 2011, the 82nd Texas Legislature made a HUGE change in this area of the law under SB 785; effective immediately.
This bill has now become law and basically says that if the Dad finds out that he might not be the father, gets a DNA test that excludes him as the father, then he can have the parent-child relationship terminated and is no longer obligated to pay child support. WOW!
Obviously there are some exceptions to follow this monumental change to the law. If the father adopted the child, participated in assisted reproduction, or he was the intended father under a gestational agreement then he can’t ditch his parental-duties.
These exceptions are obviously necessary because he isn’t surprised that he isn’t the genetic-father and this isn’t intended to be a Baby Lemon Law.
Generally, this suit must be filed within 1 year of Dad finding out that he might not be the genetic-father, however, that requirement is quite relaxed right now and won’t take effect until September 1, 2012.
Basically, if a Dad finds out he may not be the genetic-father ANY time before September 1, 2012, then he can file the Termination Suit up until September 1, 2012.
I know some of you may become outraged and proclaim that this law hurts children and mothers because it takes away a much-needed source of child-support. Some are even referring to it as the “Bastard Bill” because it allows a child to be left without a father.
I can’t tell you how to feel about it. But if you look at it from the Dad’s perspective, he has been lied to and been forced to pay child-support for a child that he didn’t even father.
However, you know as well as I do that there is a difference between a Dad and a genetic-father. This new law doesn’t just dismiss a Dad that wants to be a part of that child’s life.
On rare occasions, that very same tragic story on that daytime talk-show does have a happy ending when the Dad says, “I don’t care what those results say, that’s my son/daughter and I’m not going anywhere.
Since this is a brand new law that, as far as I can tell, hasn’t had a chance to see the inside of a courtroom yet, it remains to be seen how the courts are going to interpret it. The above is my opinion on the matter and is only meant for informational purposes and not as legal advice. If you think this law applies to you, I strongly recommend speaking with an attorney instead of trying to pursue it on your own.
–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Family Law Division
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479