Avvo Rating Badge
State Bar of Texas

Paternity/Suit to Establish the Parent-Child Relationship

What is a paternity suit and who can file one?

Over the years, the Texas Family Code has developed extensive provisions regarding all aspects of parentage. Generally, a paternity suit (or a suit to establish the parent-child relationship) is a legal proceeding filed by a person to establish another person as the lawful parent of a child. A paternity suit may be filed by the child in question, the mother of the child, a man alleged to be the father of the child, the State child support enforcement agency, an authorized adoption agency, certain relatives of a deceased mother, or an authorized representative of the child.

How is paternity of a child determined or established?

          Paternity of a child can be determined by genetic (DNA) testing or may be presumed under a number of other circumstances. For example, a man is presumed to be the father of a child who is born while that man is married to the mother of the child or born within 301 days of the end of the marriage to the mother. Or, the mother of a child and the man claiming to be the father may sign a written document called an “acknowledgement of paternity” which must meet a number of requirements per the Texas Family Code to be valid and binding.

          A few other examples that give rise to the presumption of paternity are: (1) the marriage of the mother of a child to the man claimed to be the father; (2) the adoption of the child by the man claimed to be the father; or (3) the man being voluntarily named as the child’s father on the birth certificate.

What can be done if a person denies paternity of a child?

          If a person, whether the mother or the alleged father, denies paternity of a child, the preferred method of determining whether or not a biological relationship exists is genetic or DNA testing. Such testing can be ordered by a court if a paternity suit or Suit Establishing the Parent-Child Relationship is pending or can be accomplished by the parties themselves by submitting their own genetic samples at genetic testing labs throughout most cities. However, genetic testing alone will not establish a legal parent-child relationship between the child and the biological parent.

What if a child is born during a marriage but is not a child of the husband of the marriage?

          The presumption that a child born during a marriage is the child of the husband of the marriage can be rebutted or challenged. If both spouses agree that the husband is not the father, the court’s orders in a divorce proceeding should include a provision addressing the situation. If there is a dispute about the parentage of a child, the husband, the child, and the mother should either voluntarily submit for genetic testing or the husband should ask the court to order such testing if a divorce or other lawsuit seeking to establish the husband as the father is pending.

If the parents of a child are not married when the child is born, but later get married, is the child considered legitimate or illegitimate?

Generally, a child born in such a situation would be considered legitimate. Of course, a few requirements must be met under the Texas Family Code for the husband to be “presumed” to be the father.

What happens if the parents of a child are not married and end their relationship?

          On occasion, the parents decide that the best interest of the child is the most important consideration and such parents cooperate with each other regarding financially supporting the child, possession of and access to the child, and other matters that affect the child. That situation is more the exception than the rule. In most situations, the parents either: (1) do nothing until an event or need arises that requires a paternity suit to be filed by one or both of the parents, (2) one or both of the parents file a contested paternity suit so that there are specific court orders for child support, possession of and access to the child, and other child-related orders, or (3) in anticipation of or after a paternity suit is filed, the parents reach agreements for the terms of the court orders without having a final trial or hearing.

What can I do if I am the mother/father of a child and the other parent is refusing to let me have a relationship or contact with the child?

          The basic answer is to consult with an attorney who may advise you to file a paternity suit to have specific, enforceable orders entered regarding the child or the attorney may advise you to file a lawsuit to enforce orders you may already have in place regarding the child.

What can I do if the mother/father of my child has not been in the child’s life and has recently appeared and wants “rights”?

          If that parent has court-ordered rights, consult with an attorney to determine if there is a reason for you to seek emergency orders restricting or limiting the other parent’s access to the child. If there are no court orders regarding the child, consult with an attorney regarding what rights each parent has and what actions can be taken to protect the best interest of the child.

What are a Standard Possession Order and an Expanded Standard Possession Order?

What is known as a “Standard Possession Order” is generally when the parent who does not have the right to establish the primary residence of the child is awarded the first, third, and fifth weekend of each month, beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Friday and ending at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, along with a few hours on Thursdays during the school term, extended time in the summer, and alternating holiday time. The start times of the possession schedule can also begin at the time school recesses on the particular days (usually Thursdays and 1st, 3rd, and 5th Fridays).

An “Expanded” or “Extended” Standard Possession Order relates to the addition of mid-week overnight possession (usually Thursday) and Sunday overnight possession whereby the possession ends when school begins the following morning (Friday or Monday, as applicable). An “Expanded” or “Extended” schedule is the choice of the parent who does not have the “primary possession” of the child, unless the court finds that such an expansion is not in the child’s best interest. Factors the court considers to deny such an election or choice are the distance to the child’s school from that parent’s home, any homework issues, tardy issues, travel time, the parent’s work schedule, etc.

Further, the times and lengths of a possession schedule depend upon the distance between the parents’ residences – usually 100 miles or more and 100 miles or less. Certain overnight possession periods are limited or removed when the parents are more than 100 miles away from each other and additional summer days and school breaks are ordered to the distant parent.

Is a “standard possession order” required in all cases?

A standard possession order is presumed to be in the best interest of the child and presumed to provide reasonable minimum possession of a child for a parent with whom the child does not primarily reside. However, if such a standard possession order is inappropriate or unworkable or the child is under the age of 3, the court is required to consider the age, developmental status, circumstances, needs, and best interest of the child, the circumstances of the parents, and any other “relevant factor” when ordering possession and access that varies from a standard possession order.

If I started a paternity (suit to establish the parent-child relationship) through the Attorney General’s Office, do they represent me or my child?

          They do not represent you or your child and will usually make that abundantly clear. They represent the interests of the State of Texas and cannot technically advise you as to what is best for you or your child.

          Can I hire my own attorney?

          You can and you should. Such agencies tend to take a “one-size fits all” approach and do not have the interest, authority, resources, or training to deal with any aspects of a paternity suit aside from child support and medical support.

Is child support calculated the same way in a paternity case as in a divorce case?

Yes, the child support guidelines in the Texas Family Code apply the same way in paternity and divorce cases.

If the father of the child or I (the biological father) do not wish to have parental rights, what can be done?

          You can relinquish or give up your parental rights in a formal, written document. However, giving up your parental rights may not relieve you from a child support obligation and the court is not required to find that the termination of your parental rights is in the best interest of the child. This is usually not a decision to be made lightly and you should consult with an attorney regarding your options.

If a child is born to parents who are not married, does that child have the same rights under Texas law?

Yes. A child born to parents who are not married to each other has the same rights as a child born during a marriage.

Client Reviews

I needed legal advice for a child custody dispute and had spoken with a few lawyers in order to gauge expenses and commitment requirements for legal action. Most of the lawyers I spoke with heard my situation...

William C.

I used Jerry Tidwell as the representing lawyer for two family law cases: my divorce and subsequent modification to child possession schedule. In each situation, Jerry took the time to listen to my concerns...

Karl Y.

Having to deal with the complex world of criminal cases, you will need the best legal representation on your side. Attorney Jerry Tidwell Jr. is that lawyer who knows his craft and always on the side of truth...

Joseph B.

Jerry has been amazing to work with and fights for you in every legal way possible while being completely open and honest throughout the entire process. I highly recommend Jerry for any legal matter you may...

Charles J.

When I found myself in need of a lawyer, I was referred to Jerry Tidwell. I am grateful for his help and expertise. After deciding to take my case to jury trial, the DA decided to make a deal, and anything...


Mr. Tidwell was reliable and well informed. He was just the individual that I needed in my time of legal need. I would refer him without a doubt and would utilize his services again in the future.


I hired Mr. Tidwell on a Tuesday evening. By Thursday, we had a final order and the case was settled. Mr. Tidwell was efficient, extremely communicative, and able to get us the exact result we had hoped for...

Candice H.

I was recommended to seek legal counsel from Jerry W. Tidwell, Jr. when I found myself accused of a crime I did not commit. Jerry helped me through the full process of my Criminal Defense from the early stages...

Dave **

They were awesome and very caring during my divorce. Very knowledgeable on all the laws. I have referred this firm to several people. My attorney was a bull dog!

Denise T

This lawyer is very thorough and knowledgeable about the law. He helped us rescue our grandchild from a very abusive home, and gave this child a much happier life. As God must’ve chose him to deliver children...

Flo S

Thank you for helping me to get through my divorce case — your wide range of expertise and representation was indispensable during this difficult time and I can’t thank you enough for your work ethic and most...


When Mary called me from [the] law firm I was pensive. She immediately settled me and knew why I was calling and provided sincere empathy. My current situation is quite dire but she assured me the attorneys can...

John E

Jerry gave me excellent legal representation. He is very knowledgeable, attentive and answered all my questions. I highly recommend him! I would give 10 🌟 if I could

Jordan B.

[The law firm] was recommended to me by several people in the area. I hired ... Jerry Tidwell has been my family lawyer. He has been available, honest and helpful. Nobody wants to be in the position to hire a...

Katie O

Mr. Tidwell is an exceptional attorney. He is prompt in his response time, knowledgeable, and compassionate. Mr. Tidwell outlined all options & their pros and cons. Highly recommend!

Katie P

I’m not sure if I can find the words to express how thankful we are to Mr. Tidwell for resolving our custody case. He goes above and beyond and never sugar coats things. If you’re looking for a custody lawyer...

Kristina B.

At first with [the other law firm], I started off, pretty bumpy and very slow. [Wound] up going through ... different lawyers and finally ended up with Jerry Tidwell. Once Tidwell took over [the] case...

Natisha M

I really can’t say enough of how much I appreciate Jerry and how he handled my case. The situation I was put in felt impossible but Jerry got everything taken care of and gave me the best outcome I could have...

Nick S.

We are forever grateful for all of the hard work Jerry and Mary put into our case. They communicated with us every step of the way and got our case closed with the BEST outcome in record time.

Jennifer K

This firm specifically Sarah Blackstock did exceptional work on my behalf. Her responsiveness is beyond exceptional.

Tim T

Mrs. Lanski was very kind, polite, and professional. She really made me feel welcome and that the team had my back. Thanks for all your hard work and dedication.

Melissa O

After 11+ years of fighting a battle I didn't think I could ever win, Sarah was able to change my mind. She was very considerate of all feelings involved, and found the best solution for everyone. Definitely...

Mary L

I had a wonderful consultation with this firm. Jerry and Mary were extremely helpful guiding me in the right direction. They are very professional, polite and knowledgeable. I’d recommend using them for your...

Nicole M

Mary Lanski is a real asset ... [s]he is attentive, courteous and very responsive. Out of 10, I would give her a 10+

Julia K

Phenomenal service. From the moment they picked up the phone call until the moment we disconnected it was top notch. Would definitely recommend.

J (Anonymous)

This guy has great reviews. He is going to help me resolve a problem I had on a case 16 years ago that I paid him for. Awesome guy!

Jonathan M

A well versed and trusting attorney! Mr. Tidwell was reliable and well informed. He was just the individual that i needed in my time of legal need. I would refer him without a doubt and likewise myself would...


When I found myself in need of a lawyer, I was referred to Jerry Tidwell. I am grateful for his help and expertise and I road the wave of the legal system. After deciding to take my case to jury trial, the DA...


Great guy to have in your corner I hired Mr Tidwell to assist me with some family law issues. From the first meeting I had a good feeling about him. His no nonsense, straight shooting ways are something to be...


Worth it! Mr. Tidewell viewed my case and warned me of potential holes in my own legal strategy that I had overlooked. He was open and honest with his intent and execution. Stellar performance; was aggressive...


Aggressive, Knowledgeable, and Trustworthy I consulted with and hired Jerry Tidwell to represent me on a child custody modification case back in February of this year. He was respectful of my perspective, and...

Mallory E
Fill out the contact form or call us at 972-234-8208 to
schedule your free consultation.

Leave Us a Message

5151 Headquarters Drive
Ste 205

Plano, TX 75024