It may be a common belief that incarcerated Texas parents have few rights when it comes to their children. That is not the case, though, according to the Texas Office of the Attorney General. Below are some of the most common questions incarcerated or recently released parents may have when it comes to child custody and child support.
-- How is paternity established?
Paternity is established the same way in Texas, even if the potential father is incarcerated. Texas automatically assumes the father is the husband if a couple is married when the baby is born. If the couple is not married, they must sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity and the form must be filed with Texas Vital Statistics Unit.
If the man is incarcerated, but both the mother and he want to sign an AOP, they can contact the local child support office. However, it should be noted that it can be very difficult for someone who is incarcerated to rescind or challenge an AOP. If DNA testing is required to establish paternity, then the testing can be provided at no charge by opening a child support case.
-- Is a child support obligation changed automatically when a parent is incarcerated?
No. Your child support obligation will remain the same unless you file Incarcerated Noncustodial Parent Affidavit of Income/Assets for a change in the court where the child support obligation was established.
If you are a custodial parent, you may have the child support payments sent to the person who is taking care of your child while you are incarcerated. An Authorization for Release of Information and Payment must be filed with the OAG to have the payments sent to another person.
-- When released from jail or prison, does a child support obligation always change?
It is best to contact the child support office and have a caseworker provide the legal paperwork to have your child support obligation changed once you are released. However, an attorney can also file the paperwork and may be able to get you a more favorable outcome.
Incarceration is hard on both parents and children. It's important that incarcerated parents stay as involved as possible in their children's lives and that the children know they are loved.
Source: The Texas Office of the Attorney General, "Child Support -- Information for Incarcerated Parents and Parents Returning to the Community" Nov. 11, 2014