In the state of California, when a married couple has a baby, the father is automatically assumed to be the legal guardian. This is also true for domestic partner parents: the law automatically considers the father in the relationship the biological father. However, what happens when the relationship is not so clear-cut? What happens when a father is not present at the birth, the couple is married but the child is not biologically related to the father, or the couple is simply not married at the time of the birth? What options do mothers and couples have to ensure their child will receive the support s/he needs in the coming years?
Fortunately there are a number of options to firmly establishing paternity in California of a child. Depending on the circumstances, you may need legal assistance to accomplish your goals. But rest assured, help is available no matter what.
First, if a couple is unmarried at the time of the child’s birth, California state law requires both individuals to voluntarily sign a Declaration of Paternity at the hospital, a local child support agency (LCSA), or a birth registrar. This effectively establishes the father as a biological relation to the child and finalizes the birth certificate.
However, if there are disputes over the parentage of the child, you may require the help of a LCSA or the California Family Courts. There are no favored parties in such actions: either the mother or the father of the child may file a paternity suit. In either situation the individual seeking to establish parentage will need to file a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship, which effectively begins legal action. By pursuing this type of legal action, a parent is able to have a non-invasive DNA swab performed to prove heredity. If the sample is a match, proving the father’s biological connection, the petitioner can move to file a child custody order.
Of course, these are the broad legal strokes to most paternity cases in California. Each case is unique and, more often than not, will require a family law attorney’s guidance. For more information concerning child custody and establishing paternity, contact the Law Office of Rick D. Banks today.