Paternity disputes are difficult and often emotional legal battles dealing with establishing fatherhood. Either spouse can dispute a child’s paternity for many reasons. If a parent feels the need to confirm that the person he or she assumes to be the father is actually the child’s biological father, that parent can order a paternity test. An experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the legal process associated paternity disputes.
Paternity Laws in California
California is a progressive state compared with other states, especially when it comes to family law. California lawmakers pride themselves on assessing the needs of nontraditional families, leading to practices that differ from other states. Establishing paternity in California does not necessarily mean taking a paternity test. If the father leaves the state before taking a test, the courts can establish paternity with other information.
When parents have a child during marriage, the courts presume the mother’s husband is the child’s father. If a man has lived with a child and mother and commits himself to the child as a biological father would, the courts presume him to be the child’s father. In these cases, the courts do not need to establish paternity to assign child support or other benefits. The assumed father is legally responsible. Aside from these two cases, the courts will have to establish paternity with a blood test.
If a court assumes a man is the father of a child without needing a paternity test, either parent can dispute the court’s ruling using scientific evidence that proves the man is not the father. Parents may want to do this to get out of paying child support or to prove that someone else is the biological father.
How to Establish Paternity
The simplest way to establish the paternity of a child is to sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. The child’s father and mother both sign the form, agreeing on paper that they are the legal parents of said child. If the mother is still pregnant with the child, the birthing facility will inform the parents about the form. The medical staff will then list both parents’ names on the birth certificate. The father will then assume all legal rights and responsibilities for the child as a biological father would.
A parent can also establish paternity through the courts. Filing for a paternity action may be the only way to establish paternity if the father refuses to sign a voluntary form. The child’s mother, alleged father, an adoption agency, and a local child support agency can all file for a paternity action in California. If a child is older than 12 years old, the courts will consider him or her a party in the case as well, using a representative for the child.
Genetic testing is the only way to establish paternity scientifically. If the mother requests child support, welfare, or benefits in connection with the presumed father, the courts require genetic testing of the mother, child, and father. If a presumed father refuses to take the test, the courts can take this as evidence of his paternity and establish paternity regardless. Then the court can order the presumed father to provide child support, health insurance and payment of court costs and order custody and visitation rights.
Why Bother with a Paternity Dispute?
Paternity gives children guaranteed access to medical records, federal benefits, and child support from the father. Without establishing paternity, the courts cannot force a father to pay child support. Even if the presumed father does not have a job or finances to support a child, establishing paternity can pay off in the future.
About the Author:
Kiernan Hopkins works with Boyd Law as a legal writer and marketer. Boyd Law has offices located throughout California and has attorneys with extensive experience handling many different types of family and divorce law cases. Kiernan focuses his writing around different types of law and legal issues.