Family Law Guidance in California
The term "paternity" refers to legal parentage. Children of unmarried parents may not have a legal father unless the father establishes paternity. In California, you can establish parentage by signing an official Declaration of Paternity or by obtaining a court order. Without legal paternity, the child's father is not obligated to pay child support and cannot obtain court-ordered visitation rights. Any legal agreement related to child custody, support, visitation, or relocation cannot be resolved in court until paternity is established.
How to Establish Paternity in California
There are two ways to establish legal parentage in California: through a voluntary Declaration of Paternity or a court order. The Declaration of Paternity is an official document that parents can sign at the hospital when the child is born. If both parents sign the Declaration of Paternity at the time of the child's birth, the father's name will appear on the baby's birth certificate. The mother will not be required to prove the child's parentage in court.
The Declaration of Paternity form can also be signed at a later date. If the declaration is signed by both parents at a later date, a new birth certificate can be issued with the father's name and the mother's name on it. You must request a new birth certificate if the form is signed at a later date; it will not be issued without a request. The Declaration of Paternity form must be signed by a notary public or at one of the following locations:
- Child Support Agency
- Welfare Office
- Family Law Facilitator
- Registrar of Births
- Local Superior Court
Signing the Declaration of Paternity
After both parents sign the Declaration of Paternity, it must be filed with the California Department of Child Support Services Paternity Opportunity Program. Once the form is filed, it carries the same legal weight as court-order paternity. Both parents are now financially responsible for the wellbeing of the child and both parents have the right to seek custody of the child. By signing the paternity declaration form, the father gives up the following rights in the paternity process:
- The right to a court trial to determine the parentage of the child
- The right to DNA or blood paternity tests
- The right to receive notification of any paternity hearing
- The right to cross-examine or present his case in court
- The right to legal representation
What happens if the father changes his mind?
It is difficult to reverse legal paternity once both parents sign the Declaration of Paternity. To annul the declaration, the father must complete a Declaration of Paternity Rescission to cancel the first declaration. The rescission must be filed within 60 days of the original Declaration of Paternity. This form can be filed at a local child support agency, the Registrar of Births, the local Superior Court, a Family Law Facilitator, or a welfare office.
If one of the parents decides to challenge the Declaration of Paternity within two years of signing it, he/she may use a blood or DNA test to contest the original declaration. Generally speaking, the original Declaration of Paternity can only be revoked if one of the parents is able to provide genetic evidence against the child's parentage; prove that the one of the parents fraudulently signed the declaration; or demonstrate that one of the parents was forced to sign the form.
How to Dispute Paternity
The child's alleged father has the right to submit blood or DNA testing to demonstrate that he is/is not the biological parent. A child's DNA will reflect similarities between the father and the mother. Laboratory testing can determine the child's parentage by comparing samples of the child's DNA, the mother's DNA, and the alleged father's DNA. Typically, neither parent will pay for the paternity test if the test is conducted by the Department of Child support Services. However, court-ordered paternity tests can be very expensive. California courts do not accept any form of private DNA tests as evidence – unless the private test was ordered by the court. The court will also not accept any DNA tests conducted at home or at a private medical facility.
Why should I establish paternity?
Paternity is important for the child, the father, and the mother. Paternity allows the child to have a relationship with his/her father, which will help him/her to develop a healthy sense of self-esteem. The child's legal benefits include financial support, legal documentation that identifies both of his/her parents, potential health insurance coverage, the possible right to obtain social security or veteran's benefits, and inheritance rights. Additionally, the child will have access to his/her father's medical records. Without these medical records, doctors may have difficulty diagnosing genetic illnesses and conditions.
Does the court presume parentage under any circumstances?
The child's father must establish paternity unless he was married to the baby's mother at the time of the child's birth or conception. In other words, if the child's parents divorce shortly after his/her birth or conception, the court may assume that the husband is the child's father. In this situation, the court may also presume the child's parentage if the father attempted to marry the mother. An invalid marriage may be grounds for the court to presume the man as the child's father. In some situations, the court may determine that a man is the child's legal father if the man treated the child like his son/daughter. If the man lived with the child and raised him/her like he would his own, the court may determine that he is the child's legal parent – even if he isn't biologically related to the father.
Serving Clients in Modesto, CA
Are you seeking to prove the parentage of your child in Modesto, California? Our Modesto family lawyer can help. We have helped more than 2,500 families resolve complex issues related to divorce and family law. Our firm is well-respected in the local legal community and always strives to provide clients with the best legal guidance and representation that we can offer. When you work with our firm, you can have peace of mind knowing that a skilled legal professional will be by your side through every step of the legal process. To see what the firm can do for you, contact Scott Mitchell Law Incorporated today or fill out a free, online case evaluation form today.