Challenging a Texas Acknowledgment of Paternity

iStock-1033856542-300x200A person may rescind a Texas acknowledgement of paternity no later than 60 days after its effective date, or earlier if a court proceeding on an issue relating to the child is initiated.  Once this time passes, the party may challenge the acknowledgement only on the basis of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact. Tex. Fam. Code § 160.307. Under current law, a proceeding challenging the acknowledgment may be commenced any time before an order affecting the child is issued. Tex. Fam. Code § 160.308. That statute was amended in 2011, however.  Suits challenging acknowledgements signed before September 1, 2011 must be filed within four years of the date the acknowledgement was filed with the state.

In a recent case, a man, identified in the appeals court’s opinion by the pseudonym “William,” attempted to challenge an Acknowledgement of Paternity he had signed and filed in 2005. William petitioned the trial court to set aside the acknowledgment in September 2019 “on the basis of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact.”  He did not, however, make specific allegations.  The mother argued the petition was time-barred.

Only William testified at the trial.  The mother did not appear or participate.  The trial court found the petition was untimely and denied it.

Man Moves for New Trial and Appeals

William moved for a new trial, but the court denied his motion.  He appealed. He argued the mother had waived the statute of limitations defense by signing an agreed order to set aside the Acknowledgement of paternity.  The appeals court found William had waived his waiver defense because he had not raised it until his motion for new trial.

William argued the trial court erred by not applying the 2011 statutory amendment retroactively.  He argued those changes allowed him to file a petition to rescind the authorization signed in 2005.  The law in effect in 2005 required proceedings to challenge an acknowledgment to be commenced within four years of the date the acknowledgment was filed, unless the person who signed was a minor.

The appeals court noted that the Legislature had made clear in 2011 that the changes to § 160.308(a) would apply only to acknowledgements or denials that became effective on or after the amending act’s effective date. William pointed to language in the act stating changes relating to proceedings to adjudicate parentage applied only to proceedings commenced on or after the act’s effective date.

Appeals Court Finds Trial Court Probably Construed Man’s Petition Too Narrowly – But Man Did Not Raise This Issue

The trial court had treated the petition as a claim to rescind the acknowledgement, not a claim to adjudicate the child’s parentage.  William had, however, asked the court to adjudicate the child’s parentage and made allegations that are required to be in a petition to adjudicate parentage.  The appeals court suggested the trial court had construed the petition “probably too narrowly,” but William had not argued on appeal that his petition was misconstrued.  The appeals court therefore did not consider whether the trial court had done so.

The appeals court therefore found the trial court had not erred in finding William’s claim to rescind the authorization was time-barred.  The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s order denying the petition.

Issues on Appeal are Complex – Call the Appellate Attorneys at McClure Law Group Today

The appeals court did not determine if the trial court misconstrued the petition, but the opinion suggested the result may have been different if it had considered that issue.  If you are uncertain about the paternity of your child, an experienced Texas paternity lawyer can advise you of your options and the potential time limitations applicable to your case.  Call McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200 to set up your consultation right away.




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