Is There A Statute of Limitations To Establish Paternity In Child Support?

Jennifer Hankinson Dallas Divorce AttorneyQuestion:

My question is about paternity law and child support.

A woman I had a brief affair with 15 years ago is now claiming that I am the father of her child. She is recently divorced from the man the child has known as “dad”, and now this woman is demanding I pay child support for a child I never even knew about for almost 15 years!

Will I have to pay child support or is there a statute of limitations to bring a suit to determine paternity or a paternity law that blocks this? Does the person the child calls “dad” have any financial obligations?


Since I am only licensed to practice law in the state of Texas, I can only provide general divorce help for men on how a Texas court might deal with your situation.

In Texas, in order to be ordered to pay child support, the paternity of the child must be established. Paternity suits are governed by the Uniform Parentage Act. A paternity suit may be brought by the child, the child’s mother, the alleged father, or a government entity. Tex. Fam. Code § 160.602.

However, a person may not be adjudicated to be a child’s father unless the court has personal jurisdiction over that person.

There is no statute of limitations to bring a suit to determine paternity, meaning the suit can be brought even after the child is an adult. Tex. Fam. Code § 160.606.

On Motion of the mother, father, child, or entity bringing suit for paternity, the court can order that the child and “father” submit to genetic testing. Tex. Fam. Code § 160.502.

If the results of the genetic testing are at least a 99% probability of paternity, the man is identified by the court as the child’s father; however, these results can be rebutted by other genetic testing stating a contrary result.

If the alleged “father” refuses to submit to genetic testing, the court may cite the man for contempt and fine him, or the court may enter an order adjudicating the man is to be the child’s father. Tex. Fam. Code § 160.622(b).

A decree designating a man as a child’s father establishes a parent-child relationship for all purposes. Tex. Fam. Code § 160.203. As such, if such a finding is made the court may order future child support as well as retroactive child support be paid by the father.

Pursuant to the Texas Family Code, section § 154.131(c), there is a rebuttable presumption that retroactive child support not exceeding the amount that would have been due under the child support guidelines for the proceeding four years is reasonable and in the child’s best interest.

However, this presumption can be rebutted with evidence that the man knew or should have known that he was the father of the child and was evading the establishment of a support obligation. Tex. Fam. Code § 154.131(c)(2).

Thus, if the child’s mother wants to try and obtain retroactive child support spanning back more than four years, she will need to present evidence rebutting the presumption. In order to do so, she will have to show that the man knew or should have known that he was father of the child and attempted to avoid a child-support obligation.

If this can be shown, then the court can award retroactive child support back to the date that the father knew or should have known of the obligation. See Tex. Fam. Code § 154.131(d). If this cannot be shown, than the father will only be responsible for past child support going back up to four years prior to the order.

Once it has been established that a man is the father and he is ordered to pay child support, this obligation ends if: (1) the child reaches 18 or graduates from high school; (2) the child dies, (3) the child begins active service in the armed services, (4) the father and mother marry, or (5) the parent-child relationship is terminated.

It is not clear from the facts presented to me in your question, but if the woman was married at the time of the child’s birth, her husband at the time may have acknowledged paternity and may already be the presumed father.

Since I do not know the specifics of your situation, I cannot advise you on how to best protect yourself in this current situation. Please be advised that my answering of this question does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.

To schedule an appointment with a Cordell & Cordell attorney, including Jennifer Hankinson, an attorney in the Dallas, Texas, office of Cordell & Cordell, please contact Cordell & Cordell.

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3 comments on “Is There A Statute of Limitations To Establish Paternity In Child Support?

    i live in ca and the mother lives in utha with my aledged son. he oculd very well be my son. he is now 16.5 yrs old and she is serving me with a 200k child support pappers.

    I’ve got a question for the lawyer….
    I’m in a similar situation, I’ve got a child with a married woman, and her husband found out that the child is mine! He is the legal father since he akcnowleged paterniy at the time of birth, if she divorces the man later, can she sue me for retroactive child support given these facts?

    Can I file a paternity suit on my biological father if I’m an adult?
    I’m 48 years old and I just find out my father is a retired school principal who had an affair with his student which is my mother. My mother kept this from me all of my life and I struggled as a kid and a teen with the fact of not knowing who my father was. I was lost, confused and couldn’t understand why I had no father. I had no male figure or guidance in my life which lead me drugs. Although I’m 20 years drug free, it really did put a toll on me. I was told I’m too old to petition him to a paternity test so can I sue him for a certain cause which will allow him to take a paternity test? What are my rights or options? I know there is another option other than “JUST LET IT GO” but no one walked in my shoes, he thinks because this matter is old, he can get away with it. This man has lied to the people of his community and has swept a child under the rug. He is well respected in his community and because of it he think he is untouchable. He was once on the Chamber of Commerce, Citizen of the year, Board of directors at the local hospital,Habitat for humanity, “CHILD WELFARE”, yes imagine that and that’s just to name a few. I’ve ask him to take a paternity test to clear his name but he will not respond back. I believe it’s because he do not want to be expose. Can I file a paternity suit?

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