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Establishing Paternity in San Diego

The relationship between parents and their children is sacred, and few things import as much meaning in life as rearing a child. Becoming a parent does not always happen in the context of a marriage or relationship, though, and while maternity is generally clear, paternity is often questioned. Establishing paternity is important as purported fathers do not have any legal rights or obligations unless they are named a child’s father. Fortunately, the California legislature enacted statutes that dictate how to establish paternity. If you have questions regarding what measures you can take to define the paternity of a child, it is prudent to meet with a knowledgeable San Diego paternity lawyer as soon as possible.

Paternity Established Through Marriage

California recognizes that it is important for parentage to be established for a variety of reasons. In California, there are three methods of establishing paternity. First, if a woman is married to and lived with a man at the time of conception and birth, it is generally presumed that her spouse is the father of her child. There are rare exceptions, such as in cases in which a married woman acts as a gestational carrier for another couple or individual or if the man was sterile or impotent at the time of conception and the child was not conceived using advanced reproductive technology.

Paternity Established via a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage

If a child is born outside of marriage, paternity can be established in two ways. The first involves a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage, which is essentially a document stating that a man is the father of a child. The mother and the purported father must agree that the man fathered the child, and they both have to sign the Declaration of Parentage. If it is signed at the hospital when the child is born the father’s name can be listed on the birth certificate. If the parties sign the Declaration at a later date, the signing must either occur at one of the public agencies specified by law, or it must be witnessed by a notary public. After the Declaration of Parentage is complete, the parents must file it with the Department of Child Support Services.

Signed Declarations of Parentage are granted the same legal effect as Court orders establishing paternity. Parties have a brief opportunity to rescind them, but after the window has closed, it can be difficult to show they should be vacated. Specifically, within sixty days of the signing of the Declaration of Parentage, either party can file a Petition for Voluntary Declaration of Parentage Rescission. After sixty days have passed, however, a party that wishes to rescind a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage must establish that good cause for granting their request exists, such as proof that they were fraudulently induced to sign the document.

Paternity Established Through Genetic Testing

While establishing parentage is relatively easy when the parties agree as to a child’s paternity, it can be more complicated and time-consuming when it is disputed whether a man is the father of a child. The second way to establish paternity when a child is born outside of marriage and the mother and supposed father cannot come to an agreement is via a Petition to Establish a Parental Relationship. Parties can also request that the Child Support Office in the jurisdiction they reside to establish paternity. In either case, genetic testing will typically be required to establish paternity. Genetic testing may be compelled by a Court order or conducted by the Department of Child Support Services. If the results of the genetic testing indicate that a man is the father of a child, the Court will issue an order legally naming him the child’s father. The Court may also order the father to provide health or life insurance coverage for the child, reimburse the mother for the cost of labor and delivery, and may instruct the child’s birth certificate to be modified to include the father’s name. In some cases, the Courts will also grant a request to change the child’s last name once paternity has been established.

Rights and Obligations That Follow Paternity

Once paternity has been established, the father can seek custody of the child and visitation rights, and the authority to make important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, like where they will attend school, what religion they will observe, if any, and what healthcare they will receive. As with all cases involving child custody, the Court’s primary concern in determining whether to grant a father custody rights following the determination of paternity is what is in the child’s best interest.

Under California law, all parents have the duty to provide financial support for their children. As such, an order establishing paternity grants both parents the right to seek child support. In other words, the child’s mother can seek support from the father, and if the father obtains custody rights, he can seek support from the mother. The Courts exercise the same standards in determining whether to grant either parent-child support as they do in cases where paternity was never at issue.

In addition to creating rights for the parents, establishing paternity protects the interests of the child in question as well. For example, it grants a child the right to inherit from their father in the event of the father’s death and to receive Social Security and veteran’s benefits if they are available.

Speak to a Trusted California Family Law Attorney

While paternity is apparent in many instances, in some cases, it is uncertain, and legal measures must be taken to establish a father’s parental obligations and rights. If you are contending with a paternity dispute, it is advisable to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The trusted San Diego family law attorneys of Doppelt and Forney APLC have ample experience handling paternity issues and can advise you of your rights and help you to seek a fair outcome. You can reach us via our online form or by calling us at 800-769-4748 to set up a free and confidential meeting.

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