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New Texas Law - 2011

Senate Bill 785 has passed through both the House and Senate and was sent to the Governor for signature on April 20th, 2011. This bill will Amend the Family Code and allow the termination of an order establishing a Dad based on the results of genetic testing that excludes that Dad as the child's genetic father. This new law should take effect September 1st, 2011.


Section 161.005 (Termination When Parent Is Petitioner), Family Code, provides that a parent may file a suit for termination of the parent-child relationship, and a court may order termination if the termination is in the best interest of the child; however, there are no provisions dealing with situations in which a father has mistakenly signed an acknowledgment of paternity or has been adjudicated as the father of a child. The father would be required to continue paying child support even if genetic testing proved that he could not be the father of the child.

S.B. 785 provides a way for a man who has either signed an acknowledgement of paternity or is adjudicated to be the father of a child without obtaining genetic testing to have the parent-child relationship terminated. The petition for termination must be verified and state that the petitioner is not the child's father, and that he had mistaken belief of paternity based on misrepresentations when he either signed the acknowledgement of paternity or when the court order was rendered.

The man may not file a petition for termination if he is the child's adoptive father, the child was conceived by assisted reproduction that was consented to by the man, or the man is the intended father under a court-approved gestational agreement.

A petition for termination must be filed not later than one year after the man becomes aware that he is not the father. The provision takes effect on September 1, 2012. Between the effective date of the bill and September 1, 2012, any man may bring a petition under the bill without regard to when the man learned that the child was not his biological child.

If the man establishes a meritorious prima facie case for termination, the court orders genetic testing. The result of the genetic testing then determines the outcome of the case.

This bill provides that if the parent-child relationship is terminated, the man may no longer be required to pay child support in the future; however, the termination does not affect the child support obligations already accrued prior to termination, nor does it affect the accrual of interest on any back child support owed.

If another man is determined to be the father of the child, that man may not be ordered to pay retroactive child support for any period of time preceding the date on which an order terminating another man's parent-child relationship is entered.

This bill provides that a man seeking to terminate a parent-child relationship may also petition the court to continue to allow him rights of possession and access to the child. If possession and access is granted, the court may require any party to participate in counseling with a mental health professional.

S.B. 785 amends current law relating to the termination of the parent-child relationship and the duty to pay child support in circumstances involving mistaken paternity.

Fathers For Equal Rights is a wonderful group that cares about what's best for the children.
  -- Janice N.

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