What Paternity Means to an Unwed Father

These days, lots of children are born out of wedlock. Whether the parents knew that marriage wasn't in their future, or never would be, or if they broke up before getting the chance to walk down the aisle, families without marriage are increasingly becoming the norm.

Not being married to a child's mother affects a father's rights in every way, and this can especially apply to fathers who run into trouble with the mother.

Under California law, a mother is within her legal rights to deny an alleged father visitation or access to his child – that is until paternity is established.

Establishing a "Father's Rights" in California

"Paternity" means who a child's legal father is. When the parents are married when the child is born, the law automatically assumes that the husband is the child's biological father.

For unmarried fathers, paternity has to be established before custody, visitation, or child support can be ordered by the court.

To establish paternity, a court order must be obtained or the parties must sign a voluntary Declaration of Paternity, establishing the child's legal parents.

Even if a father knows that he is a child's biological father, as long as he was never married to the mother, he has no legal rights or responsibilities for his child until he goes to court.

Submitting to DNA Testing

If a man doesn't believe that he is a child's father, the court will likely order the mother, alleged father and child to submit to genetic (DNA) testing.

Once paternity is established, the father will have all of the rights and responsibilities of a parent. This includes the right to request custody and visitation, as well as the responsibility to pay child support and half of the uninsured healthcare and childcare costs.

Contact a Los Angeles family law attorney from Claery & Hammond, LLPto schedule a free consultation regarding your paternity case!