Determining a Child's Parent Through Adjudicate Parentage

Adjudicate parentage in Texas is used when the identity of one or more of the child's parents is unclear.  Usually, it is clear who a child's parents are - but not always. Sometimes, it takes a court to make the final determination to establish a parent's parental rights as the child's parent.  In Texas, an adjudicate parentage action allows for the identity of a child's parent to be determined by the courts.

What Is an Adjudicate Parentage Action in Texas?

adjudicate parentage action in Texas

An Adjudicate Parentage proceeding is used to ask a court who is the legal parent.  The Uniform Parentage Act of the Texas Family Code identifies the procedures for filing an Adjudicate Parentage action. Although the law can be used to determine the identity of a child's mother or father, it is more commonly used to determine the name of a child's father.

Who Can File for Adjudicate Parentage in Texas?

The Uniform Parentage Act permits Adjudicate Parentage actions to be filed by:

parental rights in Texas

  • The child or his/her representative;
  • A man whose paternity is to be determined;
  • The child's mother;
  • Support enforcement agencies;
  • Adoption and child placement agencies;
  • Individuals who agree to be the parents of a child born by assisted reproduction; and
  • The representatives of any deceased individual who could have brought an Adjudicate Parentage action while living.


What Is the Process for Filing for Adjudicate Parentage in Texas?

The first step in filing an adjudication of parentage action is to file a completed "Petition to Adjudicate Parentage" with the appropriate court.  There is a limited period during which an individual can pursue an Adjudicated Parentage action.  

The law has several criteria for how long someone can wait to bring an Adjudicate Parentage action. In general, if there is no presumed father there is no time limitation.  However, if there is an assumed father, the motion must be filed within four years of the child's birth. Also, there are special rules that may change the time allowed to file an action. A parent can file an Adjudicate Parentage actions before the child is born.
adjudicate parentage in Texas

Regardless of who brings the adjudicate parentage action, the petition must include the mother of the child and the man whose paternity is to be determined. Once filed,  the person bringing the action must serve the other parties involved in the case. Once the petition is received, the other parties will then have to respond to the petition.

The final step will be a hearing before a judge. The law states that judges will always hear adjudicate Parentage actions and never by juries. In determining whether or not to issue an Adjudicate Parentage order as requested by the petition, the judge will consider evidence submitted by the parties, including the history of the relationship of the parties. It is common in Adjudicate Parentage proceedings for courts to review the results of genetic testing, but the judge can also elect to completely ignore the results of genetic testing if doing so is in the best interest of the child.

If the Court issues an Adjudicate Parentage order, the person determined to be a child's parent will obtain all the rights and responsibilities of being a parent, including custody/visitation and support obligations. However, based on the circumstances, the judge can also elect to issue an order that explicitly details the rights and responsibilities gained by the newly adjudicated parent.

Need Assistance with Texas Adjudicate Parentage Action?

If you are considering filing a "Petition to Adjudicate Parentage" or have been served with such a petition, and feel that you need assistance with the proceeding, you can text or call the American Family Law Center for help.

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