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August deadline looms for Texas dads with paternity doubts

A window of opportunity has opened for Texas dads who suspect they are not the biological fathers of the children to whom they pay support. The reprieve in the state Family Code offers doubting dads until the end of August to ask courts for paternity tests. Fathers who learn they are not a child's father would be exempt from paying child support.

State laws normally prohibit dads from stopping child support payments, if a question of paternity is not raised in a timely manner. The short-term exception to the law gives dads who have ever questioned paternity a chance to step forward.

The temporary rule eliminates the time constraint that uncertain fathers have to clear child support obligations. Starting in September, fathers have just one year after doubting paternity to raise the issue of a child's biological connection with the state family court. Otherwise, the father's duty to pay court-ordered support will continue.

If a father does show in court that he is not a biological match with a child he supports, further support obligations will be forgiven. The court will not make the decision retroactive. In other words, a father freed from support payments would still have to be up-to-date on any past-due support.

Fathers who disprove paternity will not be reimbursed for any monies they already spent to take care of a child. A man may also request and receive visitation privileges, even if a test shows the man is not a child's father. The decision to allow continued contact would be made on a case-by-case basis.

State officials did not say how well publicized the temporary family court measure had been. Many fathers may not be aware of the court's offer. With only a few weeks left until the law's expiration, some dads may miss the chance to defend their rights.

Source: KLTV, "Dads who are stuck now have a way of getting out," Melanie Torre, June 7, 2012

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