Establishing paternity can be an overwhelming time for many parents. There are many situations in which a want or need to establish paternity arises from. One example being a child born out of wedlock, or during a time where the two parents were not married. Even if unmarried, the two can sign a voluntary declaration of parentage at the child’s birth in order to identify them as the mother and father. However, in some cases of children born out of wedlock, the mother may even omit adding the father’s name on the child’s birth certificate. When this happens, it is not hopeless to identify and establish a man as the father later on. The man hoping to establish himself as the child’s father, or even the mother, may file a petition with the court for a paternity judgment. There are many reasons why a parent may want to establish paternity.
First, it is usually, but not always, in the child’s best interest to have both a mother and father figure in the child’s life. Studies have shown that a good working relationship between mother and father are vital to a child’s emotional well-being and results in positive relationships and fewer behavioral problems. (41 Fam. Ct. Rev. 354). If the child has gone many years without knowing the identity of his biological father, it may also give him a sense of relief to finally receive this information and a part of his identity he had not known. Second, establishing paternity can hold a father of a child accountable for support, whether it be emotionally or financially. If a father has been resistant to claim a child as his, establishing this paternity judgement can ensure that he is held responsible for his duties as a father. Third, it could allow a father to be present in a child’s life when the mother is resisting. Lastly, it can allow the child to claim inheritances and social security benefits.
To enable a child to reap these benefits, parentage must be established. As noted above, there a few methods to do so. One option is to sign a voluntary declaration establishing parentage. Usually at birth of the child, the person responsible for registering live births shall offer to the mother, and to the person identified by the mother as being the child’s father, a voluntary declaration of paternity for the two to sign. (Cal Fam Code § 7571). This declaration will hold the same weight as if you had gotten a judgment of parentage in court. (Cal Fam Code § 7573). If signing a declaration at birth was not an option for you or was not done, a voluntary agreement can still be drafted and signed establishing you both as parents later on. The declaration would need to be executed on a form developed by the Department of Child Support Services in consultation with the State Department of Health Services, the California Family Support Council, and child support advocacy groups. (Cal Fam Code § 7574). It will then be signed by a judge and filed in the court.
To get a paternity judgment by a judge, you would need to file a parentage case with your local superior court. Only the child, the child’s biological mother, the presumed father of the child, an adoption agency who has the child, or a prospective adoptive parent may file an action for paternity. (Cal Fam Code § 7630). A presumed father is one who was married to the child’s biological mother when the child was born, there was a valid attempt to try to marry before the child’s birth, they married or attempted to marry after the child’s birth, or one who receives the child into his home as if the child is his. (Cal Fam Code § 7611). There are many forms to file to open a parentage case with the court, so it is advised that you reach out to an experienced attorney to help you. Once forms are filed, the other parent has thirty days to respond to the petition or else it is defaulted. If the other side does respond within that thirty days, they will likely contest the petition and ask the parties to submit to a blood test.
The court may, on its own or because of a motion to the court, order a mother, child, and alleged father to submit to genetic testing to establish paternity. (Cal Fam Code § 7551). So that both parties can feel confident about the results of the test will be accurate, it is required that the genetics testing is done by a laboratory approved by the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services. (Cal Fam Code § 7552). If it is determined that he is not the child’s biological father, then the court will resolve the matter accordingly. (Cal Fam Code § 7554). If, however, it is determined that the man is indeed the child’s father then he will have the same obligations and responsibilities to the child as if the issue of parentage was not even raised.
If you have an issue concerning issues of paternity or your rights as a parent, please contact one of the experienced attorneys at Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri. We offer a free half-hour consultations.
Lastly, please remember that each individual situation is unique, and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may detail general legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.