Paternity is a concept of fundamental importance to society. From ensuring the provision of financial support for a child to the adequate development of the child's emotional well-being, knowing who a child's father is important.
Paternity plays an important role for the transfer of wealth down the generations; in a society that was long patriarchal, the identity of the father was of paramount importance.
It also has consequence for medical questions. It is important for a child to know their biological siblings and other relations, to prevent birth defects from being passed due to too close a genetic relationship. Equally important, is the tracking of and understanding of the transmission of other diseases with a genetic component.
Today, a very significant aspect of paternity is the statutory imposition of support obligations on fathers. The U.S. Census Bureau reports in 2009 that custodial mothers had been awarded $31.7 billion in support payments.
Both the federal and state governments have a compelling interest in ensuring children receive support from their parents, and accurate paternity determinations are essential to the integrity of the child support system.
Paternity creates child support obligations and these obligation are extraordinarily difficult to escape (they cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, your tax refund and wages can be garnished). As a result, you want to be absolutely certain you really are the father if you are adjudicated the child's father. If you have mistakenly been named as a father or accepted a paternity determination that was incorrect, what can you do?
In Texas, the paternity statute was amended last year to permit a man who was discovers he is not the genetic father of a child to terminate the parent-child relationship. The statute gives the alleged father one year after he has learned he is not the child's father to legally end the relationship.
A court hearing is held and if the alleged father presents a "meritorious" case for ending the parent-child relationship, the court will order genetic testing of both the father and child. If the test results exclude the man as the genetic father, the court will order the termination of the parent child relationship.
For the father, this order is the only to stop child support payments. Because support obligations will never "go away," if you have been mistakenly subject to these payments, this process is necessary to obtain relief.