Paternity Woes: Timing Matters
In Californian family law, there are a few important presumptions. Most have to do with marital property. However, one presumption is all about paternity. In California, a man is presumed to be the father of a child that is born to his wife during their marriage.* In a recent case, this presumption complicated matters for a man, his ex-girlfriend, and her new husband.
Victor and Mary were “romantically involved” when Mary became pregnant, although they never married. One month before she was due to deliver, however, Mary ended her relationship with Victor. After that, she acted fast. She married another man, Roger, before she had even delivered her baby. Shortly thereafter, her baby boy was born.
Due to the previously mentioned presumption, Roger was considered the baby’s father under California law. Mary and Roger, now married, took the baby into their home, and Roger treated the child as his son. Victor knew the baby was his, but he was not allowed to see his son.
After eight months, Victor filed a paternity suit stating that he was the biological child of Mary’s son. Unfortunately for Victor, Mary fought back, raising the presumption, and the trial court held that Victor did not have standing to claim paternity. His suit was dismissed.
Nevertheless, Victor appealed the trial court’s decision. The appellate court held that the presumption can be rebutted, especially where there is evidence that the child was not conceived during the mother’s current marriage. So, because Mary’s son was conceived well before she was married to Roger, Victor could rightfully file his paternity suit.
Although the trial court’s decision was overturned, Victor is still the boy’s presumed father. However, now Victor will have a chance to prove that he also deserves to be in the boy’s life because of their biological ties. Sadly, more litigation is on the horizon for these parties.
Paternity cases can be dramatic and complicated. If you find yourself in a difficult paternity situation, please contact our California Certified Family Law Specialists (as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization). Our attorneys have decades of experience handling complex family law proceedings and offer a free consultation.
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 include legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.
*See California Family Code § 7611.