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Ken Raggio's testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on SB 785

March 8, 2011

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Members:

 

I am Kenneth Raggio of the Dallas firm Raggio & Raggio testifying in support of the Bill on behalf of the Texas Family Law Foundation. The Bill is sponsored by the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Texas.

 

As laid out by Senator Harris, the Bill addresses and provides a much needed remedy for mistaken paternity, with practical and procedural safeguards.

 

It authorizes a man who, without benefit of genetic Testing and who signed an acknowledgment of paternity, or was adjudicated to be the father, to file a verified pleading stating the basis of his mistaken belief. The Court must then conduct a pretrial hearing to determine whether the man has a prima facie case, and if so, will order genetic test. If the genetic testing excludes the man as the father, the court shall render an order terminating the parent-child relationship.

 

This termination of the parent-child relationship does not terminate the man’s prior obligation to pay child support. In other words, if he owed back child support, it would be collected with appropriate enforcement procedures currently in law.

 

The bill also recognizes that the man being terminated because of the mistaken paternity may nevertheless have an important emotional bond with the child, and the Bill allows contact to continue between the man and child to prevent significant impairment to the child, using concepts already in the Family Code. The Court can order possession and access to the child, and even child focused counseling in appropriate cases.

 

The Bill allows the mother of the child to pursue establishing parentage with another man, but prevents retroactive support for the new father prior to the date of termination of the old father. In other words, no "double dip."

 

The Bill provides a much needed filling for a gap in the law.

 

I’d be happy to address any questions that Committee members may have.

 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

Text of SB 785