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The four types of fathers under Texas law

by | Mar 22, 2024 | Family Law, Fathers' Rights, Texas Law |

Fatherhood is a cherished institution in American life, but it can also be a thorny question when it comes to  family law cases where it’s important to determine who is responsible for a child’s welfare. With that in mind, it’s useful to go through the four types of fathers per the Uniform Parentage Act.

Texas was actually a pioneering state when it came to that Act, adopting it in 2000 and starting implementation in 2001, as part of Section 160 of the Texas Family Code. It can be incredibly useful in cases involving assisted reproduction, as well as cases where the mother isn’t sure which of more than one sexual partners during a particular time frame is the actual biological father of the child in question.

Fatherhood, per the Uniform Parentage Act, involves:

  1. an unrebutted presumption of the man’s paternity;
  2. an effective acknowledgment of paternity; unless the acknowledgment has been rescinded or successfully challenged;
  3. an adjudication (court-ordered determination) of the man’s paternity;
  4. the adoption of the child by the man; or
  5. the man’s consenting to assisted reproduction by his wife which resulted in the birth of the child.

Here are the four categories.

The presumed father

There are a number of conditions for this category, starting with the caveat, “Until or unless a presumption of paternity may be rebutted by either an adjudication of another man’s paternity or a valid acknowledgement.” Both this category and that caveat can be vital when it comes to determining child support.

A man is the presumed father of a child if:

(1) the child is born during his marriage to the mother of the child;

(2) the child is born before the 301st day after the date the marriage to the mother of the child is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce;

(3) he married the mother of the child before the birth of the child in apparent compliance with law, even if the attempted marriage is or could be declared invalid, and the child is born during the invalid marriage or before the 301st day after the date the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce;

(4) he married the mother of the child after the birth of the child in apparent compliance with law, regardless of whether the marriage is or could be declared invalid, he voluntarily asserted his paternity of the child, and: (A) the assertion is in a record filed with the bureau of vital statistics; (B) he is voluntarily named as the child’s father on the child’s birth certificate; or (C) he promised in a record to support the child as his own; or

(5) during the first two years of the child’s life, he continuously resided in the household in which the child resided, and he represented to others that the child was his own.

The acknowledged father

If there’s no presumed father, or a presumed father files a denial of paternity (and hasn’t previously filed an acknowledgment of paternity or has been proven to be the biological father), a man claiming to be the biological father of the child, with the intent to establish his paternity, can file a form along with the mother to become the acknowledged father.

Section 160 of the Texas Family Code has provisions for the forms to be filed, as well as specific directions for genetic testing and what happens when the test shows paternity with more than 99 percent certainty.

The adjudicated father

Under Texas law, an adjudicated father, per the Uniform Parentage Act, is broadly defined as a man who has been adjudicated by a court to be the father of a child.

A proceeding to adjudicate parentage may be filed by any number of parties, including:

(1) the child;

(2) the mother of the child;

(3) a man whose paternity of the child is to be adjudicated;

(4) the support enforcement agency or another government agency authorized by other law;

(5) an authorized adoption agency or licensed child-placing agency;

(6) a representative authorized by law to act for an individual who would otherwise be entitled to maintain a proceeding but who is deceased, is incapacitated, or is a minor;

(7) a person related within the second degree by consanguinity to the mother of the child, if the mother is deceased;

or (8) a person who is an intended parent.

The proceeding is also affected by the presence of either a presumed father or an acknowledged father. The Uniform Parentage Act also incorporates the doctrine of paternity by estoppel, which extends equally to a child with a presumed father or an acknowledged father. That might apply, say, if a man knows that a child is not biologically his, but has the role of the father in the child’s life, with the duo operating in the child’s life as a mother and father.

The assisted reproduction father

Assisted reproduction can complicate the question of who is the father, and that’s part of what the Uniform Parentage Act is all about.

Let’s say a couple uses assisted reproduction, and the wife gives birth to a child conceived using sperm from a man other than her husband. Legally, the woman’s husband is the presumed father. However, the sperm donor could assert his biological paternity, or the husband might seek to assert that he is not the genetic father, thus circumventing the marital presumption of paternity.

Conversely, the Act does exclude the egg donor from claiming maternity when a child is created through that means of assisted reproduction.

The Act has a very specific set of guidelines around suits, including one holding that “If a husband wants to challenge his paternity of a child born by assisted reproduction, he must bring forth such a challenge before the 4th day of his learning of the birth of the child and the court must find that the husband did not consent to the assisted reproduction either before or after the birth of the child.”

Why this matters

It’s important to know about this Act and the definitions of fatherhood as it’s not nearly as straightforward as it once was — particularly with assisted reproduction and what’s possible there.

At the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance, we’re familiar with the Uniform Parentage Act and we’ve worked on a number of cases where it’s been central to the hearings and the subsequent outcomes. If you have any questions about a situation where fatherhood is at issue, we’d be happy to schedule an appointment to discuss your case and review options for pursuing your ideal outcome.