Paternity in California is the legal establishment of the parentage of a child. When the mother and father of the child are not married or there is infidelity in a marriage, there may be uncertainty of who the father is. Before forcing the responsibility of a child on someone, paternity must be established. If you want to to collect child support, gain child custody, or establish visitation rights, a paternity lawyer can help you through the process.
This webpage is written to help you understand the facts of paternity law. It doesn’t take the place of getting legal advice from a Orange County paternity lawyer who is familiar with these statutes. The topics covered are:
- California Paternity Law
- How Do You Establish Paternity?
- What is Genetic Testing?
- Rights as the Father of the Child or Children
- Why Should You Establish Paternity?
- How Much Does the Paternity Testing Cost?
- Contacting a Paternity Lawyer in California
California Paternity Law
Courts will automatically assume that the person married to the mother is the father. That is why it is important to establish paternity or challenge paternity as soon as you can to ensure you have the rights of a father or to avoid obligations that aren’t yours. A OC paternity lawyer will be working very closely with you to work through the laws in California.
There is a compelling state interest in establishing paternity for all children. Establishing paternity is the first step toward a child support award, which, in turn, provides children with equal rights and access to benefits, including, but not limited to, social security, health insurance, survivors’ benefits, military benefits, and inheritance rights. Knowledge of family medical history is often necessary for correct medical diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, knowing one’s father is important to a child’s development.
This California statute regarding paternity basically says that the first step to fatherly obligations is to legally establish that someone is the father. It is not mandatory that the father pass a paternity test. To establish paternity, the court decides who the legal parents are, using two possible methods when the parents are not married:
- Voluntarily signing a Declaration of Paternity
- Getting a court order
How Do You Establish Paternity?
The first method simply needs to have the unmarried, birth mother to say who the birth father is before they leave the hospital after the birth. The hospital staff act as witnesses of the parents signing a voluntary Declaration of Paternity and should send in the declaration to the Department of Child Services within 20 days. Each parent also receives a copy of the Declaration of Paternity according to California Family Law Code § 7572.
The second method, is through a court order. The process of legitimation is difficult. This is given when the parents do not admit to being the parent of the child; this can also apply to the mother. With the court order, the alleged parents are subject to getting a genetic test done. There are a few people that can request court-ordered paternity tests:
- The mother of the child
- A person who thinks he is the biological father of the child
- The child’s personal representative
- The child, if he/she is of legal age
- A social service agency or prosecutor
A man can also be presumed to be the parent of the child in certain situations, including:
- He and the mother were married at the time of the child’s conception or birth
- He attempted to marry the mother of the child and she gave birth to the child during this period
- He became married to the mother after the child was born and has agreed to have his name on the birth certificate as the father
- He took the child into his home and treated the child like his own. This is called “parentage by estoppel” and can be considered in court when establishing paternity
What is Genetic Testing?
Genetic testing can prove or disprove of a parent-child biological relationship. The DNA of a person is inherited from his or her mother and father. By comparing the DNA of the alleged parent and the child, it can be determined if they are related. How is this done? The genetic testing is done by rubbing a cotton swab inside the mouth of the person to get a sample of saliva. The results are then compared and if they show a match, the court will declare parentage.
If the court orders the paternity test, it must be done at a court-approved clinic and may cost several hundred dollars. If the Department of Child Support does the testing, there may be no charge to the parents. Consult with a paternity lawyer to see what your options are. Make sure you ask about legitimation.
Rights as a Father of the Child or Children
Once paternity is established by the court, it is final. The legal parents must provide financial support for the child or children. They will have the rights and obligations of a parent:
- The ability to request custody and visitation orders
- The responsibility to pay child support and half of the child’s uninsured medical costs and other childcare costs
The parents of the child have the same rights of married parents. They also have the same responsibilities to care for the child, in all aspects, including: health, well-being, education, and the child’s daily routine activities. If the other parent is not stepping up to the plate, contact a paternity lawyer to see what your child’s legal rights are. If you believe you’re the victim of paternity fraud, read more here.
Why Should You Establish Paternity?
Establishing parentage of a child gives the child, not only the satisfaction of knowing who his/her parents are, but also gives them the same rights as children of married parents. The child’s benefits are:
- Established financial support from both parents
- A legal document stating who the parents are
- Names of both parents on the birth certificate
- Access to family history and medical records
- Health coverage through the parents
- The rights to an inheritance from the parents
- The rights to get social security and/or veteran benefits, if applicable
Another major reason you may want to establish paternity is to gain custody of the child, in the case that the natural mother wants to give the child up for adoption and you do not. Being named the biological father, you have the rights to care for the child and refuse giving him/her up from adoption. It is critically important to hire a paternity attorney if you worry something like this might happen.
Another situation may require you to establish parentage for both mother and father, when a surrogate is involved as in the case of Johnson v. Calvert. In this case, a surrogate mother refused to give up the child due to her feeling that the couple did not uphold their end of the deal in the surrogacy. The court had to step in and determine each person’s legal parental rights of the child. If you have a complicated situation, contact an Orange County paternity lawyer as soon as possible.
How Much Does the Paternity Testing Cost?
There will be fees associated with a paternity case. The fees aren’t the same for everyone, as health insurance and methods are different. Below is a list of fees that may be involved if you have a paternity case:
- Swab cheek test kits
- Prenatal paternity testing
- Paternity lawyer
- Court filing fees
Contacting a Paternity Lawyer
Although the number of unwed parents are increasing, it’s not guaranteed that an unmarried father will step up to the responsibilities. If you know your child deserves child support from his or her father, a paternity lawyer can help you legally establish paternity before proceeding with a child support case. Talking to a California paternity lawyer benefits you if you are a Orange County resident looking to determine parentage. A phone consultation can help you understand what to expect whether the father cooperates or refuses to cooperate.
If you need a paternity lawyer and you’re going through a divorce, read our divorce attorney page. If you need to know more about paternity fraud, click this link here. For more information about family law, visit our Orange County family law attorney page.