Paternity in Texas – What to Consider
By Capt. Richard Lucio, Fort Bliss Legal Assistance Office
Paternity is the establishment of the father-child relationship. It is a very important legal concept with wide-reaching consequences. For example, unmarried parents must first establish paternity before the biological father can assume legal rights to their child.
This can happen either through a court-ordered (or voluntary) paternity test or when the assumed biological father voluntarily completes and submits an Acknowledgement of Paternity form. The Texas Attorney General provides guidance on both processes on their website. In most cases, a blood or DNA test is required. Because some courts do not accept tests from military hospitals, a service member attempting to establish paternity in Texas should be sure to follow the instructions provided by the court or the Texas Attorney General to do this the appropriate way.
Financial obligations are the most important consideration for service members. If the father admits paternity, or paternity is found by the court, then the father must provide financial support to the child until they reach the age of 18. In the Army, this means that the service member must provide support pursuant to Army Regulation 608-99. On the other hand, paternity renders service members eligible for BAH to support children born out of wedlock if DEERS receives the appropriate legal documentation.
It is also possible for other parties to claim a service member as the father of a child by serving them with court documents. In this case, the service member must provide a written answer to the allegation within the time allowed by the court. If the court does not receive an answer, it could automatically rule in favor of paternity and thereby obligate the service member to support the child regardless of the circumstances. It is possible to overturn court-ordered paternity, however, this process is complicated and likely requires hiring a civilian attorney for assistance.
Service members should also be aware that allegations of paternity can be reported to their immediate commanders by other parties. If this happens, the commander should refer the service member to the Legal Assistance Office for support, request that the service member sign a DA Form 5459-R (Authorization to release Army Records on Paternity Complaints), explain potential family support obligations, advise that refusal to pay court-ordered child support could result in punishment and garnishment of pay, and ask if the service member admits to or denies the claim. If the service member denies paternity or refuses to provide support, the commander cannot take further action without a court order. This order must identify the service member as the father of the child and direct that the service member provide support for the child.
If you are a service member who feels that your command is not adhering to the above process, or if you have any further questions on paternity, please schedule an appointment to speak with an attorney at Fort Bliss Legal Assistance Office by either calling (915) 568-7141 during office hours or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org anytime.