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Establishing Paternity in IV-D Court

This article explains what to expect if you are ordered to appear in a IV-D Court (also known as child support court). This article should not be considered legal advice, and doesn’t replace legal advice. It won’t explain every legal action that can happen in IV-D Court—just the most common ones. Every case is different, so each experience is different. Hopefully this article can give you an idea of what might happen and what to expect.

If, after reading this article, you decide you don’t want to go to before a IV-D judge alone, there are resources available to help you find a lawyer. The State Bar of Texas website has a “find a lawyer” section, plus a Lawyer Referral and Information Service. Your county might have a lawyer referral service. You can find that information on the internet or in a phone book.

I received a citation to appear in IV-D Court for a Suit to Determine Parentage. Should I go to court?

Yes, you should go to court. If you miss your hearing date and that hearing was to establish paternity, you could be named the father of a child who may not actually be your biological child.

If you don’t go to court, a decision can be made by the judge without your involvement. Don’t be afraid to go to IV-D Court. For more, read Texas Family Code section 160.631.

Remember, the hearing will proceed without you if you have been served properly with a citation, or notice, to appear in the IV-D Court. If you have questions, talk to a lawyer.

If I go to IV-D Court for the Suit to Determine Parentage, can I ask for a paternity test?

Yes. Either respondent can ask for a paternity test. Sometimes the mother of the child asks for a paternity test. It is wise to get the question of paternity answered before the court signs an order of parentage. 

Will I have to pay for the paternity test I request?

Usually not. It is up to the court.

What if I don’t have a lawyer on the day I go to IV-D Court for a Suit to Determine Parentage?

Do not fear. If you have a question about the paternity of a child you believe you did not father, you can ask for a paternity test—with or without a lawyer.

Sometimes a respondent does not ask for a paternity test because he is afraid the other party will become upset. Ask for the test if you believe you are not the father. It is the perfect time to do so.

Be sure to explain your concerns about paternity to the Assistant Attorney General (AAG) or the Domestic Relations Office lawyer (DRO) who is handling the case as the AAG and the DRO do not represent the other party.

The AAG and the DRO lawyers are lawyers. But they are not judges. They do not make any decisions regarding the case. Only the judge makes the final, binding decisions.

A paternity test will most likely be ordered. You will be ordered to return to court to hear the results at a later hearing date. Talk to a lawyer before you return to IV-D Court.

 

If the paternity test comes back and says I am not the father of the child, what happens?

You may be excluded as the father of the child. Your involvement in the IV-D case may be over. For more, see Texas Family Code section 154.006 and section 160.631(d).

If the paternity test comes back and says I am the father of the child, what happens?

If the paternity test comes back and says you are the father of the child, an order for support of the child will be signed by the judge, mostly likely. You may also have retroactive or back child support added for you to pay, as well. See Texas Family Code section 154.001, 154.009, and 160.636 for more.

If you believe the test will come back positive that you are the father of the child, talk to a lawyer before the next hearing in IV-D Court so you can understand your rights and duties to the child.

What's the difference between presumed, adjudicated, and acknowledged fathers?

What is a presumed father?

The main reason a man may be considered a presumed father of a child is that he is or was married to the mother of the child. Read Texas Family Code section 160.204 for other reasons why a man may be considered a presumed father.

What is an adjudicated father?

An adjudicated father is a man who the court decides is the father of the child. This type of judicial decision is usually made when a blood test is done at the request of one of the parties and that test comes back positive for the man who took the test, or the man did not appear in court for the hearing, which resulted in a default judgment. For more information, see Texas Family Code section 160.631 and section 160.634.

What is an acknowledged father?

An acknowledged father is a man who has signed a document called an Acknowledgment of Paternity with the mother. It states to the world that “Yes, I am the father of the child.” This type of document legally makes you the father of the child without a court hearing. The document is usually completed in the hospital after the birth of the child. For more information, see Texas Family Code sections 160.301 and 160.302.

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