Texas law now gives men the opportunity to contest paternity and end financial obligations. Until this spring, it was nearly impossible to reverse alleged mistaken paternity even if a DNA test later showed no relationship to the child.
To have a child support case considered, a father must file a petition, attend a hearing to determine if proof exists to support the case and take a court-ordered DNA test. If the test shows that the man is not the father, upcoming child support requirements will be terminated.
Legal Right to Challenge Child Support Obligations
Signed into law on May 12, 2011, the paternity bill (SB 785) allows men, who believe they were wrongfully declared fathers, the opportunity to try to reverse parental rights and legally terminate future child support responsibilities. However, future is the keyword.
Courts are looking to the future not the past when making paternity decisions. If a father succeeds in proving no relationship to a child, he will not be reimbursed for child support payments already made. Additionally, he must fulfill his obligations to make any back child support payments due, including interest.
Back Child Support Payments Not Waived
The fact that past child support payments are not forgiven can be frustrating for some individuals. For example, Ray Thomas, a Houston man, had his case profiled on KHOU. Thomas is extremely frustrated that the bill is not retroactive. Ordered to pay child support since 1986, he had tried numerous times to contest paternity before the courts. He even had a DNA test conducted which indicated a zero percent chance he was the biological father. But the judge would not hear him.
Now Thomas has racked up more than $50,000 in back child support payments and interest for a child that is not his. Even with SB 785 in place, he is still required to pay the full amount though future obligations may now be waived.
Though the new law is expected to reduce the complications and confusion surrounding previous paternity and child support legislation, the full impact of SD 785 is yet to be seen.