Establishing Paternity in California

In a paternity case, the court is making an order establishing who a child's legal parents are. Ordinarily, when a child's parents are married when he or she is born, there's no question about who the parents are.

That is because the law assumes that when a baby is born, the husband is the father of the child, thus paternity is automatically established in cases of a husband and a wife.

What if the parents are not legally married? Does a father have any rights to his child? Does an unwed mother who is raising her child alone have any rights to receive child support from the child's biological father?

If the parents are not married, then paternity will have to be established legally.

What does it mean to 'establish' paternity?

When you establish paternity, it means that you obtain a court order or you sign a document called a Declaration of Paternity, which states who a child's legal parents are.

If you are the mother of a child and you are not married to your child's father, your child does not have a legal father until paternity is established.

This means that even though he is the biological father of your child, he has no legal rights or responsibilities for his son or daughter until paternity is established.

Reasons for establishing paternity legally:

  • Paternity must be established before there can be any child custody, child support, or visitation orders.
  • If a man denies that he is a child's father, the court can order the alleged father and child to submit to a DNA test.
  • Once the paternity has been established, the father can request custody and visitation of his child.
  • The father will be responsible for paying child support, as well as half the uninsured healthcare costs and half the childcare costs if the mother has to work or is attending school.

Please note that once paternity is established, the legal father is required by law to financially support his child. A father is committing a crime if he fails to support his child. He also has the right to seek custody or visitation of his child.

To learn more about paternity, contact a Los Angeles family law attorney from Claery & Hammond, LLPfor a free case evaluation.