Helping Parents Establish Paternity
Paternity serves many purposes. It is how a person is determined as someone’s father in a legal context. A mother can list anyone as the father on a child’s birth certificate, regardless if they are the father by blood or not. Paternity must be determined separately if either parent chooses. The need for paternity testing arose when fathers needed to prove their right to be in a child’s life and when a mother needed to prove paternity in order to receive child support.
Paternity carries many rights and obligations. Therefore, establishing the paternity of a child is important to mothers and supposed fathers as well as the child. At Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri, we are committed to working with men and women to help establish the paternity of a child.
In California, many children are born out of wedlock and raised in nontraditional families. In fact, in 2018, 37.1% of births were to unmarried mothers¹. This rate of births out of wedlock has been on the rise since the 1970s². There’s no shame in needing a paternity test. 300,000 paternity tests are provided every year, nationally, making it a common need amongst parents³.
The results of paternity have a huge impact on a variety of parental issues and legal rights. Paternity affects:
Child support is an ongoing amount awarded to one parent that is meant to financially support and provide for the basic needs of a child. It can range from food and clothes to medical costs and extracurriculars. It, basically, helps the other parent raise the child in a healthy, financially stable environment. The amount depends on a variety of factors, but mainly, the income of the parent.
Legally, paternity must be proven, either through admission or through testing, in order for child support to be awarded to the opposing parent. Through admission, both parents must agree that the father is, in fact, the father. If the parent refuses to agree that the alleged father has paternity, a test is required. Without paternity, an alleged father has no obligation to care for or financially support the child, nor does he have any rights in regard to being a part of the child’s life. With proven paternity comes responsibilities and father’s rights to the child.
Child custody plans dictate who cares for the child and for what period of time. There is sole custody, where one parent is responsible for the child full time and can grant the other parent visitation rights, or none at all. Joint custody is shared custody between both parents, splitting the child’s time between the two. Child custody plans aren’t always permanent. Child custody modifications exist in the event of a major life change.
A father does not hold any rights to see or be a part of the child’s life without proven paternity.This means that an alleged father cannot see or visit the child until paternity is proven if the other parent chooses not to allow it. For this reason, many fathers are eager to prove their paternity. With paternity rights, a father can equally have a say in a custody plan for joint parentship, or for father’s fighting for sole custody, a say in a plan to allow the other parent to see the child. Custody is a very touchy subject for parents. Having an experienced attorney can help protect your rights and help you create a realistic, sustainable custody plan.
An often overlooked responsibility of child support is health insurance coverage for the child. A court will order one parent to be responsible for the child’s healthcare coverage. The requirement for public or private healthcare depends on a case to case basis. If a father admits to paternity and it is agreed upon by the other parent, it is possible he will be responsible for health insurance. This is especially likely if he is ordered to pay child support. If he denies he’s the father but it is proven through a test, the likelihood of being responsible for healthcare is also apparent. In some cases, you will need an attorney to handle your case in regards to health insurance.
Paternity affects a child’s inheritance rights. The laws in regards to inheritance for children vary state to state. If paternity was admitted by the father or if it was proven, the child is eligible for inheritance. If however, paternity is not proven, they may have no claim to their inheritance. If a father wants to prove his paternity and protect his child’s inheritance rights, a court proven test is necessary.
Since child support, child custody, visitation, health insurance and inheritance rights are closely tied to the paternity of a child, it is critical to legally establish a child’s parentage. There are several ways of establishing paternity:
- Establishing Paternity Through Courts – Establishing paternity through the courts requires various forms be filed. They must be filed in the county the child lives in. To ensure the forms are filled out properly and served to the appropriate parties, it’s recommended you have an attorney with you along the way. A form to establish paternity can be filed by many different people – the mother, guardian, father’s parent or representative, custody agency, or mother’s parent or representative. Once the forms are filed, a trial among a judge is needed in some cases to determine child support, custody, and other parentage rights.
- Voluntary Declaration of Paternity – A voluntary declaration of paternity is a form in which unmarried parents of a child sign upon birth of the child. This usually takes place in a hospital but can take place at other times in certain circumstances. If the form is signed after leaving the hospital, a new birth certificate with both legal parents listed will need to be acquired. This form holds the same weight as court-ordered paternity, but makes the issue of establishing paternity much easier. Signing this form means both parents are the legal parents of the child.
The form can be acquired through the child support agency, local family law facilitator, welfare office, or registrar of births. If, for some reason, it isn’t signed in one of these public agencies or the hospital, it must be notarized by a notary public in California. In California, it has to be filed with the Parentage Opportunity Program. You can learn more about this program here. If you are considering signing a voluntary declaration of paternity, you need to know that it is challenging to undo this order, even if it’s genetically disproven later down the line. Declared parentage can mean an obligation to pay child support and provide in other ways for the child. A voluntary declaration also means you are giving up the right to a lawyer for representation of your alleged paternity.
- Child Support Agency – This is a free service for parents who don’t necessarily have the finances to go to court themselves. Find the local child support agency in your area for assistance. A part of this method of establishing paternity is asking for a child support order in addition to establishing parentage. Set up an appointment with your local agency via phone to get the ball rolling. Pregnant mothers and post-birth mothers alike can ask for this action. As with court orders, if an alleged father denies being the parent, genetic testing will be ordered. A father seeking to prove his paternity can also request this service if, for instance, the other parent is refusing to acknowledge their parentage and rights. In cases where parents are on welfare, the local child support agency is required to open a case.
What Sets Us Apart
Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri is a law firm specializing in family law. We have over 100 years of combined experience handing paternity cases among other family law matters. We service San Jose, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and the surrounding areas. We understand the immense impact paternity has on your life and the life of a child. Whether you’re a mother who needs help establishing parentage of an alleged father, or if you’re an alleged father who needs to prove genetically you’re not the parent, our firm can represent you.
We understand that each paternity case is unique, and tensions can run high when dealing with this matter. We can guide you through this encounter gracefully and compassionately. Rest assured we will protect your rights and ensure you get the outcome you deserve. If you’re still uncertain what steps you need to take, consult with our attorneys and get your questions answered. We can guide you in the right direction, whether that be filing a court order, voluntary declaration of paternity, or if you need the help of your LCSA (Local Child Support Agency).
LPEP believes in our services, which is why we offer free 30-minute consultations. We can go over your questions and concerns, and offer our professional advice. We can help you decide if you should move forward with legal action, and can prepare you for what needs to happen next. If you are curious about your paternity options, don’t hesitate to reach out.