Senate Bill 785, relating to the termination of the parent-child relationship and the duty to pay child support in circumstances involving mistaken paternity, has passed both houses of the Legislature and was sent to the Governor for signature today. The vote was unanimous in passing the bill. Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) recognized early on that technological changes required a serious reconsideration of public policy in paternity situations.

The bill provides a limited remedy for a man whose paternity regarding a child has been previously established, but who later discovers a reason to doubt the truth of his paternity, to raise a challenge in court.  A man in that situation will have one-year after he discovers the doubts as to paternity to file the challenge in the court that determined the paternity.  After filing his challenge, he can request DNA testing be conducted.  If the DNA test results exclude him as the father, the court must terminate his rights to the child as well as any obligation to pay child support. The law does not allow the man to challege the payment of child support while he thought he was the father — what’s done is done, according to the new law.

For fathers who currently have a reasonable doubt as to their paternity, the law allows one year from the effective date of the law, September 1, 2011 to September 1, 2012, to raise challenges.

Here’s the text of Senate Bill 785.