What it means to establish paternity in California has evolved over the years, and in general, paternity refers to a child’s parents, as opposed to a child’s father. This change is necessary because a child may have one father and one mother, two fathers, two mothers, and in some cases, a child can have more than two parents. Establishing paternity is essential for an unrecognized parent to secure the right to be involved in the child’s life.
It is also important to establish paternity so that a child receives financial support from both parents, and one parent does not have to shoulder the burden of supporting the child alone. Establishing paternity is necessary for a child’s well-being, and an experienced family law attorney can help protect your rights. If you need to establish paternity in California, keep reading to learn more about the legal process.
Why Paternity Needs To Be Established
In California, both parents are responsible for providing financial support to their child(ren) regardless of their involvement in the child’s life. Child custody, child support, visitation, health insurance coverage, and other matters can only be ordered by the court when parentage is established. Paternity is a critical element in protecting children’s rights and parental rights.
When Couples Are Married
When couples were married at the time the child was born, the court presumes that a parent-child relationship exists, and a legal process to establish paternity is not necessary. Likewise, if couples are registered as domestic partners when the child is born, parentage is presumed. When paternity is already established, child custody, visitation, child support, and other matters can be determined by the court, unless one person successfully contests paternity. A person contesting paternity has the burden of proving that the established paternity is incorrect.
Unmarried Parents And Establishing Parentage
If the party whose paternity is in question married the child’s parent after the child was born, and both parties are named on the child’s birth certificate, parentage is presumed. It is also presumed if a partner welcomed the child into his or her home and treated the child as a family member.
When couples were not married, or there was no registered domestic partnership when the child was born, and neither of the scenarios in the prior paragraph applies, paternity will not be presumed. It will then be necessary to go through the legal process of establishing paternity before the court will issue child support and custody orders.
Establishing Paternity In California
The easiest way to establish paternity in California is for both parents to sign a voluntary declaration of parentage and file it with the court. The voluntary declaration can be signed any time after the child is born, and if both parents’ names are not on the birth certificate, they can request a new birth certificate with both names included.
When both parties cannot agree to sign a voluntary declaration of parentage, the party seeking to designate paternity can ask the court for an order. If a party denies that the child is his biological child, he has the right to request a DNA test before the court issues a paternity order.
In some cases, a DNA test is not relevant in a contested paternity case, and the court must examine other factors. For example, in a same-sex couple relationship, the issues are more complicated, such as did the non-biological partner intend to be a parent to the child?
The Legal Process
The legal process for establishing paternity can be complicated, especially if one party contests parentage. Navigating the court process and dealing with DNA tests should be handled with a skilled attorney’s assistance. Evidence issues, such as showing the couple’s intent when a child was adopted, are critical to proving your paternity case.
Some deadlines must be met when it comes to a contested paternity case. If it is alleged or established that you are the child’s parent, you may have a limited time to object. If you miss the deadline, you might be confirmed as the child’s parent, even though you do not believe the child is yours.
California Paternity Lawyer
California paternity lawyer Bruce A. Mandel represents clients in parentage and other types of family law matters. He understands that establishing paternity is critical to protect parental and children’s rights. If you are facing a paternity issue or another type of family law matter, contact us online or by phone at 424-250-9130. See our Facebook page to learn more about our areas of practice and the legal services that we provide.