The Common Law

Child support – who's the dad?

I know who the dad of my child is, but he refuses to pay. How can I legally prove that he is the dad?

Under Texas law, paternity of a child can be voluntarily established by agreement of both the mother and father of the child by signing a form known as an Acknowledgment of Paternity. Once filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics, the AOP becomes a legal finding of paternity. The Attorney General's office advises that neither parent should sign the AOP if they are not sure of the paternity of the child.

In your case, assuming the father of the child denies paternity in order to attempt to avoid child support, you should seek help from the AG's Child Support Division in order to get the father to take a scientific paternity test. A court will review the results of the paternity test and determine whether he is the biological father. Assuming the Child Support Division files the case on your behalf, the AG's office will pay for the paternity test. If the suspected father is ultimately found to be the biological father, the court can order him to repay the costs of the paternity test.

The father of my child is making more money now, and I want to increase the amount of child support. Can I change the amount of child support he pays?

Yes, but only with court approval. In Texas, only the court can modify a child-support order. Even if the father agreed to the increase (unlikely in most situations), child support cannot be changed by agreement of the parties.

A parent subject to a child-support order can request a court review of the ordered child-support amount every three years. A court will follow guidelines to determine whether the child-support amount should be increased. Two standard guidelines for modification include: 1) a material and substantial change in the circumstances of a child affected by the order; or 2) passage of three years since the last child support order and a difference in monthly payment by either 20% or $100. Contact the AG's Child Support Division (460-6000) for more information on revising your child-support order.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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