One certainty in life is children need and deserve the support and love of both parents. In some cases, however, conflicts may arise on the issue of whether a man is the biological father of the child. While the identity of the biological parent is usually certain, the identity of the biological father may not be known. As such, establishing fatherhood calls for the need of a paternity test to be carried out.
In California, a child’s parentage can easily be established if; the potential father and the mother are living together or married, his name appears on their child’s birth certificate, or both parties acknowledge that his name appears on their child’s birth certificate, if they are unmarried. It’s therefore a requirement to establish a child’s parentage before child custody, visitation, and child support orders can be acquired. Such cases can be tremendously delicate in nature and can have a huge effect on the outlooks of the children and parents implicated. Speak to a seasoned San Diego paternity attorney if you have any legal concerns of questions.
California Paternity Overview
Under California Family Code Section 7450, there is a legal presumption that if a child is born to parents who are legally married, the wife is the mother and the husband is the father. Also, the husband is recognized as the legal parent of the child if the mother came to be pregnant through any aided production such as donor insemination, but with the approval of the husband. If the parents are in a registered domestic partnership when the child is born, under California’s Assembly Bill 205, there is a presumption that both domestic partners are the parents of the child.
In cases involving parents who are not legally married or in a registered domestic partnership, the parents can sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity when the child is born. This declaration can also be filed with the court when the child is all grown up, and this will result in the issuance of a new birth certificate with the father’s name.
If a child was conceived or born when the parents were no married, it’s presumed that the child not have a legal father. This means that a father has no legal rights or responsibilities for the child until paternity is established. Also, there may be need for the establishment of paternity if parents who are not married can’t agree on whether or not the man in question is the biological father of the child.
What is the Legal Importance of Paternity?
Paternity is basically a legal establishment used in identifying a child’s biological father. This might be of great significance in cases where more than one party is claiming to be the biological father to a child. Moreover, it can be used to solve disputes of fathers denying their parental responsibilities.
There are several legal effects that come as a result of paternity cases and this may include the responsibility of sharing child support. It’s only through a successful paternity suit that a father who may have voluntarily refused to support their child may be obligated to do so. In addition, the father who is claiming paternity can be granted child custody or even visitation rights.
Similarly, paternity is also significant to the child’s mother. For instance, if the mother is unemployed of the income she gets is too little to cater for the needs of the child, it will be through the establishment of paternity that she may perhaps be able to secure financial support for the minor. This may also lead to custody sharing between her and father. There is always a sense of acceptance and satisfaction in knowing who your parents are. Paternity gives the child that kind of emotional. Also, paternity gives the child rights to inheritance from either parents as well as death benefits or reimbursements resulting from their father’s death. Another advantage may be related to health issues where a child, for instance, is in need of blood transfusion or organ donation. A father may be the most qualified donor and if he is known, maybe he can be able to help save the child’s life. Through paternity, a child is entitled to the same rights and privileges enjoyed by children whose parents are in a registered domestic partnership or marriage.
Other legal rights and privileges include:
- Access to both family medical records and history
- Having both parents’ names on the child’s birth certificate
- Right to obtain social security, veteran’s benefit, and any military grants if available
- Financial support, shelter, and guidance from both parents
- Legal credentials identifying both parents
- Health and life insurance coverage from either parent
- Ability to sue for the wrongful of either parents
The benefits of an established paternity go beyond the legal aspects.
Voluntary Assumed Paternity in California
There are a number of cases in which paternity may be assumed. This may include the following:
- The child is born to a married couple or domestic partners
- There being an effort by the alleged father to marry the mother when the child was born or conceived
- The father receives the child into his home, responsively takes care of the child, and openly holds the child as his own
- The child was born before the parents got married but they later get married and the father and approves the inclusion of his name on the birth certificate or agrees to provide support to child
- There being a close relationship between the child and father and the court allows equal custody rights
- The child is born to unmarried parents who never marry but agree to sign an acknowledgment of paternity or a similar document drafted by a certified California family law attorney
Paternity cannot be exclusively determined by a blood test or a birth certificate. It is, therefore, important for a father who is not married to the mother of his child to declare his paternity in one of the ways mentioned above to avoid losing their parental rights to another man who marries the mother later on, or accepts the child as his own.
Involuntary Paternity in California
There are also other ways of establishing paternity in California. The mother of the state assisting the mother can file a paternity lawsuit against the alleged (putative) father. The putative father will then be required to appear before the court and may even be asked to have a DNA test carried out. Paternity in most cases is established through genetic blood tests that provide 99 percent accuracy. Once paternity is determined, the court will establish an order about the father’s paternity and he will be obligated to pay child support.
Paternity can be established in court and either parent may begin the proceedings. Such cases must be filed in the child’s county of residence. In most cases, paternity cases to the court begin when the mother requests the court for child support, child custody, and visitation. The court may order the alleged father to take a paternity test as a way of establishing fatherhood. If the man refuses to take the test, the court can take the refusal and use it as evidence against the putative father in a subsequent paternity proceeding.
Do Sperm Donors Have Paternal Rights?
In today’s world, the method of artificial insemination is quite common among women who want to bear children but they don’t want to get married or their husbands are impotent. In this cases, the sperm donor can be a friend, a friend, or an anonymous stranger. Under California Family Code section 7611(b), a man is presumed to be the biological father of a child if he willingly provides shelter and other basic needs and openly holds out the child as his own. Such a father has parental rights, which includes custody rights of the child. However, California Family Code section 7613(b) states that a sperm donor cannot be treated as the natural father of the child if he donated the semen to a licensed sperm bank or a licensed physician. In this case, the man in question would not have any parental rights, even if he were to accept the child into his home and openly hold out the child as his biological child.
Responding to Summons and Complaints
A parent’s ability to dispute paternity will mainly be determined by whether it has been legally established to begin with. If not established, the parents have the right to request a paternity test to establish the identity of the biological father. If you are the alleged father and have been served with complaints and summons on the subject of parental obligations, you have a 30-day period to respond and take a paternity test. Failure to respond may be taken by the court to mean you have no objection to the paternity, and the court may even declare you as the legal parent even if a paternity test was not conducted.
What Happens Following the Establishment of Paternity?
Once paternity is legally determined, a judge will give a court order asserting the legal parents of the child. After being confirmed as the real father of the child, you’ll be granted the liabilities and rights of fatherhood. You’ll also be able to appeal to the judge to also establish visitation and custody orders for your child. To be specific, the benefits will be revealed through the following:
- Inheritance to assets
- Petitioning for child custody
- Health insurance coverage through father’s plan
- Revelation of father’s medical report
- Tax dependency claim for child support
- Eligibility to father’s death benefits or social security
Paternity Tests to Establish Fatherhood
With the progression in the technology-based identification methods, for instance the DNA test, the process of paternity testing has been simplified and made reliable. And as such, it has helped in minimizing the number of passionately induced paternity trials. DNA tests involve the examination of the child’s genetic material inherited from the biological parents. First the genetic characteristics of the child will be compared against the mother’s and those not possessed by the mother are determined to have come from the father. If these genetic characteristics are not found in the putative father, he cannot be named as the biological father. DNA testing provides over ninety-nine percent accuracy in establishing the identity of the father. This can also be used in establishing the paternity of an unborn child.
DNA testing in most cases is initiated when a putative father requires proof of paternity before he can accept to pay for child support. Also, a mother may contest paternity when a man who believes the child is his attempts to gain custody or visitation rights. However, a good number of laboratories avoid carrying out a DNA test on a child below six months old because of the dangers the child and the mother may be exposed to during the process.
Paternity is a Lifetime Commitment
After paternity has been established, withdrawing your paternity status cannot push through if 60 days have not elapsed since the day your child’s birth certificate was signed and modified. Also, you cannot withdraw if there is an ongoing trial regarding your paternity, child custody, or any other court matter involving your child. Your Declaration of Paternity can be cancelled but only if you give an acceptable and convincing reason as to why you want to rescind your paternity. This means that you must be careful in declaring paternity because if you change your mind later, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to undo your paternity declaration. Even though the process involved in establishing paternity may be as simple as signing a single form, it can sometime be complex because it may involve a Family Court Services mediation, if unmarried parents are involved in a custody tussle. There may be other situations unique to the case that will have to be solved. Don’t refuse your paternal rights just because you and the child’s mother are not in good terms. Always have the child’s best interests in mind.
Contact a Seasoned California Paternity Attorney
If you’re a woman trying to secure child support or if you’re a man seeking child custody or visitation rights, it may be indispensable to work through the legal process with the help of an experienced paternity attorney. At San Diego Family Law Attorney, we understand that matters involving custody, visitation, and support payments can be complicated and we are dedicated to helping you achieve optimum results. Our lawyers can also help you deny paternity if you have solid reasons to do so. Contact us today at 619-610-7425 for a free consultation.