Establishing Paternity in California: FAQs

A smiling father holds his laughing baby.

When parents are married, paternity is most often established without legal action. The presumption is that the husband is the father and the wife is the mother. However, unmarried parents will have to establish legal paternity in order for the father to claim legal rights and responsibilities concerning his child. A declaration of paternity may be signed by the parents voluntarily when the child is born or they may obtain a judgment from the court, giving the unmarried parents the same rights as married parents.

Below are some frequently asked questions about establishing paternity in California:

Why is it necessary to establish paternity?

Establishing paternity provides a number of legal rights and privileges, including ensuring that the child receives adequate financial support from both parents, providing access to medical records and history, providing the child with health and life insurance coverage from both parents, providing the child with the right to inherit from either parent, and more. It also allows the court to make orders for child support, child custody, and visitation, among other legal arrangements.

Can I obtain child support if I am unsure of the father of my child?

No. Paternity must be established before child support can be ordered.

Will the mother automatically gain custody of the children during divorce?

While the courts have historically favored the mother in custody cases, there has been a shift in perception in recent years, with the courts now upholding the rights of both parents equally. When making a custody decision, the court will consider the best interests of the child, not the gender of the parent.

What if a man denies that he is the father of the child?

If a man denies that he is the father of a child, he may have to submit to DNA testing. The results of genetic testing indicate a probability of paternity and can be used to establish a legal presumption of paternity. If the state orders the tests, it will be responsible for paying for them; however, if the father is identified by the test, he may be required to pay the cost.

What if the father lives outside of California?

Leaving the state does not nullify parental responsibility. You can and should still have paternity established. California can claim “long arm” jurisdiction over the father and require him to appear for paternity establishment.

For further information and assistance with your paternity matter, we encourage you to contact an attorney at Moore, Schulman & Moore, APC. Call (858) 492-7968 to schedule a consultation.

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