Claery & Hammond, LLP

Fathers' Rights in California

As recent as the 1990s, family courts across America had the tendency to prefer the mother in child custody cases. In effect, many people today still recall that as the usual way of doing things when couples battled over child custody.

In the last 10 or 15 years, there has been a dramatic shift in the way that the family courts address and resolve child custody and child support cases.

Today, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, and same-sex couples are treated equally in family court cases; gender equality has never been so pronounced in child custody and child support cases as it is today, and this is good news for fathers everywhere.

What ‘Paternity’ Has to Do With a Father’s Rights

While married fathers have equal rights to their children in a divorce or child custody case, paternity plays a key role in situations where the child’s parents were never married. The term “paternity” means to legally establish who a child’s biological father is.

If the child’s parents were married at the time of birth, then the mother’s husband is automatically presumed to be the child’s legal father. When a child is born out of wedlock, the child does not have a legal father until paternity is established.

Under California law, until paternity is established, a father does not have any legal rights or responsibilities towards his child, even if he knows he is the biological father.

If the father won’t admit that he is the child’s father by signing a voluntary Declaration of Paternity with the child’s mother, the court may have to order a DNA test to determine if he is the child’s father.

Advantages of Establishing Paternity

If you have a child and you were never married to the mother, you will need to establish paternity before the court can make orders for child custody, visitation, or child support. If the child’s mother is willing to sign the Declaration of Paternity with you, then you can proceed from there.

On the other hand, if your child’s mother is not allowing you to be in your child’s life, or if she’s unwilling to legally acknowledge that you’re the father, you may need to ask the court for a DNA test so you can seek court orders for child custody or visitation.

If you need professional guidance with a child custody or support matter, please contact Claery & Hammond, LLPwithout delay.