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Determining paternity before the baby is born

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Paternity of a child is automatically established if the parents are married to each other when the child is born. However, in Texas, if the parents of a child are not married at the time of birth, then paternity must be established 

Typically, paternity tests have required one to sweat it out in uncertainty until after the child is born. There are now, however, several pre-natal tests that are non-evasive and less risky options, that take the guessing game out of who the father is prior to birth. In the past, DNA-based paternity tests were only available after delivery using tissue or blood collected from the baby and the alleged father. Or invasive tests had to be done during pregnancy potentially risking the baby's life. It is now possible to do paternity testing during pregnancy and prior to birth with simple non-invasive tests.

In Texas, if a purported father wants to establish the paternity prior to the birth of the child he can do so by filing a request for adjudication of parentage and voluntary litigation with the court. The father can also request a prenatal paternity test from the court. If the mother agrees to the prenatal testing, then the court will order the testing and accept the DNA test results while making a determination on the record. However, if the mother does not agree to the testing, a court may not force her to have the test. That testing will have to occur after the birth of the child.

Though a purported father also has the right to a determination of custody, that cannot be decided prior to the birth of the child. In Texas, a court has jurisdiction to decide issues of custody only if Texas is determined to be the "home state" of the child. For a child who is less than 6 months old, according to the Texas Family Code (Section 152), the "home state" means "the state in which the child lived from birth with a parent or a person acting as a parent."

If you are unsure about paternity, either your own or another's, or you are a mother seeking to know who the father is, a family law attorney at the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance may be able to help you in determining the legal options available to you for both your immediate needs and future ones.

A version of this article originally appeared on this website, prepared in coordination with Findlaw.

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