PATERNITY CASES- LEGAL RIGHTS
Paternity or parentage cases determine who the legal parents of a child are. Getting a court order that states who the child’s legal parents are establishes parentage.
WHEN AND WHY DOES PARENTAGE NEED TO BE ESTABLISHED?
If the parents of a child are married, parentage usually is not questioned. The law assumes that the married couple is the child or children’s legal parents. (Cal. Fam. Code §7540)
However, if the parents of a child are not married, then there is no legal father until parentage is determined and established by the court. The father has no legal rights or responsibilities for the child if parentage is not established. Once parentage is legally established, then the father of the child can see his child, provide for the child financially by paying child support, and make decisions about the child’s life.
HOW CAN A FATHER ESTABLISH PARENTAGE?
In order to be able to get child custody, visitation rights, or other support orders, parentage must be established to legally determine who the child’s legal parents are. They are the are the ones with legal rights and responsibilities for the child’s care.
One way to establish parentage can be by both parties signing a voluntary Declaration of Paternity. This is a governmental form that establishes the parties as the child’s legal parents when signed by both parents. This form must be signed voluntarily. This is usually done when the parents are not married, and is done at the hospital or later at the child support office.
Getting a court order is another way to establish parentage. A father can file for a Petition to establish parental relationship, which will initiate the court to make orders determining who the legal parents are if there is any question as to custody, visitation, and child support.
This may include the court ordering genetic testing of the parents and the child. If this test determines that the presumed father is not the father of the child, the issue of paternity will be dismissed and the case resolved accordingly.
WHEN IS A PERSON PRESUMED TO BE A PARENT?
A person may be presumed to be the child’s other parent when:
• He was married to the child’s mother at the time the child was conceived or born
• He agreed to have his name on the birth certificate by signing a declaration of paternity
WHAT HAPPENS ONCE PARENTAGE IS ESTABLISHED?
Once parentage is established, the legal parents must financially support the child. It is against the law in California for a legal parent to fail to support their child. Legal parents have the right to custody and/or visitation regarding the child.
This information is not complete and should not be relied upon with the advice of an attorney because the law changes and there are exceptions to the general rules.