An Overview of Mistaken Paternity Law

Interviewer: What does mistaken paternity mean?

Jeanne Morales: Well, the basic idea is, in a case where there hasn’t been a DNA test, an individual who’s been alleged to have been a father may have acted as such over a period of time, and given other indications that he’s the father – either the mother of the child tells him so, or if the child has some of his characteristics, then he believes it’s his child.

As time goes on he develops either evidence or serious doubts that the child is actually genetically his and therefore if he signed a paper stating that he is the dad because the mother told him he was, that was a mistake and it allows him to say, “Now I have a reason to believe it’s not my child and therefore I’d like a DNA test.”

Before & After New Texas Paternity Law

Interviewer: Now, there’s been a new law passed. Let’s talk about how it was before the law. What was the situation?

Jeanne Morales: The situation was if you did not demand a DNA test and you just took someone’s word for it, there were deadlines and if you didn’t take care of it before you signed paperwork and went with the allegations that you were the father, then you cut off your ability to later on challenge that.

Even if someone later on was genetically proven to be the father, with that kind of new evidence years later, you can go to a judge and say, “Look, I have a reason to believe the child is not mine and I didn’t have that same reason to believe such back then. Therefore I’d like a DNA test now,” and you didn’t used to have that option.

Interviewer: When did this change occur?

Jeanne Morales: The initial change happened in 2011 and it was modified slightly in 2012 by the Texas legislature. It’s a pretty straightforward process. You file something with the court saying, “I know what I said back in the day; I’m the father but there was never a DNA test and I’ve now developed information that calls into question whether or not I’m the father and I want a DNA test now.”