Married couples and registered domestic partners are automatically given full parental rights to any children born to them. Unwed fathers must take steps to establish their paternity in California. Only then do they have rights or responsibilities related to the child.
A California court will not enforce child support or visitation unless and until the father has been named the legal father of the child. The Golden State offers two main methods for confirming parentage: voluntary declaration by both parents and through a court order.
Signing a Declaration of Parentage
Unmarried couples have a simple way in which they can establish parentage before the child leaves the hospital after being born.
The California Voluntary Declaration of Parentage can be signed by both parents at the hospital. When they do so, the parents’ names will be entered onto the child’s birth certificate. Neither parent needs to go to court to establish paternity.
The document can also be signed later, and a new birth certificate will the parents’ names will be issued. The form is available from the local child support agency, registrar of births, local superior court, and welfare offices. The declaration must be signed at the local agency office or witnessed by a notary public.
Getting a Court Order of Parentage
Not all parenting issues are settled amicably by voluntarily signing the declaration. When either the mother or father wants to verify parentage, they can take the case to court. Genetic testing can confirm whether the alleged father is in fact the father by gathering DNA evidence from the mother, alleged father, and child. DNA material is gathered by rubbing a sterile cotton swab inside each of their mouths.
Once parentage is established, the court can make the following orders:
- Child support
- Child custody
- Health insurance
- Name change
- Pregnancy/birth expenses reimbursement
The alleged parents are not the only ones who can seek to legally confirm parentage. If one parent is on welfare for the children (if they receive Cal-Works or Medi-Cal), the local child support agency automatically gets involved and opens a paternity case. The goal is to hold the biological father financially responsible for their share of caring for the child.
Recognizing More Than Two Parents
The court has the authority to legally recognize more than two parents if not doing so would be detrimental to the child’s well-being. In 2013, then-Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that allows California to have up to three legal parents.
Same-sex parenting situations include considering the intent of the people to become parents.
Reaping Benefits of Establishing Paternity
Confirming the legal father of a child does more than give the mother a legal means to receive child support or provide the father an opportunity to have visitation. The value extends to the mother, father, and child.
The advantages of establishing parentage include the following:
- Fuller health histories from which decisions can be made to benefit the child
- The mother has additional support from the father to handle issues that arise
- The child’s right to inherit from either parent
- The right to receive Social Security or veteran’s benefits, if applicable
- Relationships with both parents give the child a stronger sense of security and identity
Retaining Experienced Legal Counsel for Paternity Claims
When you are in the midst of a parentage dispute, lean on skilled legal counsel from Palmer Rodak & Associates. Verifying if someone is the father of a child and should be held legally responsible is the starting point. Our knowledge, insight, and experience help our clients navigate what typically happens next – the complex legal landscape of custody, visitation, and support.
Learn more about paternity rights and obligations in a free consultation with our team. Contact us online or call (760) 573-2223 to schedule.