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How Long Does A Father Have To Prove Paternity In California?

How Long Does A Father Have To Prove Paternity In California?

Family law concerns the whole family, and once children are brought into the mix, the best interests of the child are always one of the number one concerns of family law. Both parents are legally responsible for their children whether they are married or not. But when a couple is not married, in order to impose that responsibility, sometimes the parentage of the child needs to be legally established.

Regardless of whether parents want responsibility toward their child or not, the biological nature of being a parent makes them legally responsible for that child’s health and welfare. Except in matters of adoption, it is obvious who the mother is, but who the father is is often not as obvious. Proving paternity is a critical component to establishing a father’s legal responsibility toward a child.

When Paternity is Assumed in California

The courts assume the paternity of a child when

  • The child is born during a marriage. In this case, it is assumed that the husband is the father of the child.
  • The child is born when a man has been living with the mother and has taken on a father-like role and commitment toward the child.

In all other matters, though, a child’s paternity may need to be established by other means.

Why Establish Paternity?

There are many reasons that individuals may want to prove the paternity of a child.

For a father who wants to be part of his child’s life, proof of paternity will establish him as a biological parent with a legal right to have a relationship with his child. For a father who is resisting responsibility, it can make him accountable for legal and financial obligations in the support of his child.

For a mother, establishing paternity may be how she can secure some financial support for her child and hold the child’s father legally accountable. For a child, paternity may not only mean the right to receive shelter and support but also provide an important emotional understanding of who he or she is.

Other reasons that individuals may need to establish paternity can include:

  • Ensuring the father’s ability to sign important documents regarding the child
  • Understanding important health risks
  • Establishing inheritance rights
  • Accessing family records
  • Accessing documents that identify both parents
  • Obtaining medical insurance coverage
  • Obtaining life insurance benefits from the father
  • Obtaining veterans or Social Security benefits from the father
  • Obtaining other dependent-based assistance from the government

Once paternity is established, the court can then make other decisions regarding the father’s rights and responsibilities toward the child regarding custody, visitation, support, name changes, and other legal and financial concerns.

How is Paternity Proven in California?

When both the man and woman agree on who the father is, paternity is established by both signing the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. This attests that both parties agree that they are the biological parents of the child. If the birth certificate has already been issued, a new one can be issued with the father’s name on it.

By signing this document, however, the father gives up the right to come back later and claim he is not the father. He also gives up the right to come back later and ask to legally establish paternity through a court trial and DNA testing.

The other way of establishing paternity is through a court order. A paternity case can be initiated under the Uniform Parentage Act, California Family Code Section 7600, by

  • The man who believes he is the father
  • The child’s mother
  • A child over the age of 12
  • An adoption agency
  • An agency that is serving the needs of the mother

The court will order genetic testing of the parents to determine if the child’s DNA matches both parents’. If the alleged father refuses to cooperate, the court may consider his noncooperation as evidence that he is the biological parent. But if a man believes he is the child’s father but is getting no cooperation from the mother, the court may not automatically order DNA testing to prove paternity. This is when it is crucial to have the legal assistance of a family law attorney.

How Long Does A Father Have To Establish His Paternity?

In California, there is no statute of limitations on when a father can establish his paternity. When there is doubt about a child’s parentage, the court can order a blood test to establish paternity up to two years following the birth of the child. Unmarried fathers can seek child custody and visitation up to the child’s 18th birthday. In fact, a father can petition to establish his paternity up to three years after the child has turned 18 years of age.

Getting Legal Assistance

Regardless of why you are seeking proof of paternity, it can be complicated and time-consuming. Getting the assistance of an experienced Torrance, California, paternity attorney may be critical to your case. Bruce A. Mandel has dedicated his legal career to families and ensuring their best outcome. Call (424) 250-9130 to schedule a confidential consultation or contact us through our online form.

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