Establishing Paternity in California

Establishing Paternity in California

Establishing Paternity in California

Establishing paternity is necessary for many unmarried couples to gain essential parental rights and responsibilities for their children. Paternity allows both parents to have rights to custody and visitation, along with the responsibility to financially support their child. It also allows children to get financial insurance benefits and inheritance rights from both of their parents. There are several ways that parents can establish the paternity of their children.

Benefits of Establishing Paternity

In addition to legal parental rights and financial responsibilities, there are other benefits to determining paternity. This includes:

  • Children have access to their family’s complete medical history.
  • Both parents have access to medical records and histories.
  • Children can receive health insurance from both parents.
  • Children can receive a parent’s benefits like Social Security and veterans benefits.
  • An established parent can now sign important documents for their child.
  • Children have the right to inherit from both parents.

In addition to tangible benefits for a child or children, establishing paternity allows children to create a connection with both of their biological parents.

Paternity Presumption in California

The court presumes that two married parents are the biological parents of a child born during marriage. This also applies to legally registered domestic partnerships. These couples have automatic parental rights and responsibilities during marriage and if they separate.

The court will also presume parentage when the parent who did not give birth to the child cohabitates with the child and parent, commits to the child, and acts in a parental role. The parent who gave birth to the child wouldn’t have to order a paternity test to request that the other parent have parental rights and responsibilities.

If these two situations do not apply to a couple and their child, they will have to establish paternity in a different way. Paternity must be established legally through the court; otherwise, the child only has one legal and biological parent.

Voluntary Declaration of Parentage

If both parents agree that they are the biological parents of a child, and wish to have equal parental rights and responsibilities, they can sign a voluntary declaration of paternity. This is a much easier, less costly, and less stressful way of establishing paternity. This form can be signed at the hospital after one parent gives birth or later at an agency, like a superior court. It must be witnessed and then entered in court.

Once this is done, the other parent has parental rights and responsibilities. A new birth certificate can be ordered with the other parent’s name on it. When the other parent signs this form, they are waving the right:

  • To claim they are not the other biological parent.
  • To request a DNA test through the court to establish paternity.

This is why the court advises that parents be certain before signing a voluntary declaration of paternity.

Establishing Paternity Through Court

A child’s biological parentage can also be established through a court order. The following parties can initiate a paternity court case:

  • The parent who gave birth to the child
  • A person who believes they are the other biological parent of the child
  • The child, if they are at least 12 years old
  • An adoption agency
  • A child support agency working on behalf of the single legal and biological parent

The court itself can order paternity testing to determine who the other biological parent of a child is. If a suspected parent refuses to submit to genetic testing, the court may consider this as evidence that they are the biological parent. Once paternity is established, both biological parents can determine an agreement for custody, visitation, and child support if they are separated.

What Is Paternity Fraud?


Q: What Establishes Paternity in California?

A: In California, paternity can be established through a court order or a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage. This form is a simpler and less expensive way to establish paternity, but it is only possible when both parents are willing to sign it. Children born to married couples, or couples in legal domestic partnerships, are assumed to be the biological children of that couple. California also presumes that a person who cohabitates with the biological parent, and takes on parental responsibilities, is the other biological parent.

Q: How Long Does a Father Have to Establish Paternity in California?

A: There is no deadline or statute of limitations for a parent to establish paternity. However, if a presumed biological parent believes that they are not the biological parent, there is a deadline to prove that in court. The court can order blood tests to determine parentage within two years after the child is born. A parent who is unmarried, but didn’t give birth to their child, has the legal right to pursue custody and visitation until the child turns 18.

Q: What Is the Presumption of Paternity in California?

A: In California, the court presumes the paternity of a child if one of the following is true:

  • The child was born to a couple who are legally married.
  • The child was born to a couple in a legally valid domestic partnership.
  • The child is born when a couple lives together, and the non-birthing parent is committed to caring for the child and serves a parental role.

Q: What Rights Does a Father Have If He’s Not on the Birth Certificate in California?

A: If a parent is not on the birth certificate, this doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have parental rights. However, if parents are unmarried, and no steps are taken to establish parentage, the other parent does not have legal rights to their child. The parent who did not give birth to the child will be added to a new birth certificate if both parents sign a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage. If this document isn’t signed, and paternity isn’t established through the court, only the parent who gave birth has legal parental rights.

Determining and Protecting Your Parental Rights and Responsibilities

Paternity can get complicated if parents or couples disagree on the parentage of a child. Determining paternity is essential if you are a single parent who needs child support. Paternity is also important to have rights to your children and spend important time with them. If you’re in need of a qualified family law attorney to help establish paternity, contact Bickford Blado & Botros.



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