If someone has named you in a paternity suit, you’ll need an attorney to represent you. Child support paternity issues are rarely as straightforward as they seem. The person legally identified as the father isn’t always the genetic father.
Surprised? Most people are. But we can help you better understand the situation by taking a look at the legal definitions of paternity .
What Counts as the Child’s Father?
Keep in mind: the court will act in what it considers the child’s best interests. You and the court may not always agree on the definition of father. In the next few sections, we’ll discuss the various kinds of fathers the court recognizes.
You’re the acknowledged father if you or you and the mother admit or announce that you are the child’s father, despite being unmarried. As the acknowledged father, you must pay child support if the relationship ends, but you retain custody and visitation rights.
Unless you or the mother can prove otherwise in court, you are the presumed father if:
- You were married to the mother when the child was conceived or born.
- You tried to marry the mother and failed (for example, due to annulment). And the child was born or conceived during the attempted marriage.
- You agreed either to have your name on the birth certificate as the child’s father, or to support the child after his or her birth.
- You welcomed the child into your home and openly treated them as yours.
The state recognizes all as conclusive evidence of paternity, even if DNA tests later prove otherwise. In other words, you must continue to pay child support even if you later prove the child is not yours, but you still retain custody and visitation.
If you were not married to the mother when you impregnated her and admit parentage or a court determines you are the parent, you’re the alleged or unwed father. You must pay child support, but can seek visitation and custody rights.
Under California law, if you are a non-biological father who steps forward to take responsibility from the child, but not allowed to take full custody, you are an equitable parent. This especially applies when you and the child maintain a close relationship and consider yourselves parent and child, especially when the biological parent encourages the relationship. Along with equitable custody or visitation comes child support.
You count as a stepfather if you’re the mother’s spouse but not the child’s biological or adoptive father. You need not support the child after the end of the marriage, even if doing so would be in their best interest.
About Court-Determined Paternity
Either the child’s mother or father can file a paternity suit against you if you had a sexual relationship with the mother. However, welfare officials usually initiate such lawsuits as part of Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) proceedings. By law, they must try to get the father to reimburse them for TANF funds. They will threaten the mother with loss or reduction of TANF benefits if she refuses to cooperate.
Modern DNA testing is sufficient to determine or rule out parentage with near 100% accuracy. If such an action establishes a child is yours, you must pay child support, but will also receive custody and visitation rights.
Facing a Child Support Paternity Action? Get a Fresno Lawyer on Your Side
If you are facing a paternity suit, or the court has ordered you to pay child support for a child you aren’t sure is yours, call the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks. We’ll provide a free consultation to help determine if you have a case. Your child or not, the court may still want you to pay. We can help you avoid unfair child support paternity orders.