Establishing paternity is crucial for both a biological father and the child. Legally declaring paternity ensures that a biological father has the same rights and obligations they would have had if they were married to the child’s mother. The child can also benefit from knowing their father’s identity and developing a parental bond with them. However, it’s not always necessary to go to court. A declaration of paternity is typically the easiest way to establish paternity, and it can save the time and expense associated with litigation.
What is Paternity?
Paternity refers to the legal establishment of a child’s biological father. In California, it is presumed that when parents are married at the time of a child’s birth, the husband is the father unless he contests parentage within two years. If a child’s parents are not married when the child is born, paternity must be established in order for the father to have custodial rights and child support obligations.
What is a Declaration of Paternity?
There are two ways to establish paternity in California: one way is through the courts by filing a petition — this is often done when paternity is challenged. Depending upon whether paternity is disputed, the legal process can include DNA testing, a parentage hearing, and a trial. In California, the proceedings may be brought by the man who believes he is the child’s father, the child’s mother, the child support agency, or the child if they are over the age of 12.
But paternity isn’t always contested. The other way to establish paternity is by voluntarily signing a declaration of paternity affidavit out of court. This document allows an unmarried man to acknowledge he is the biological father of the child without having to go before a judge.
For the declaration to be valid, it must be signed by both parents. While the declaration of paternity is usually signed at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth, paternity can also be acknowledged later through the court system. Critically, once a father signs a declaration of paternity, he may seek custody and visitation rights, and child support obligations may be imposed.
Can a Declaration of Paternity Be Rescinded?
If a man has signed a declaration of paternity affidavit, and it is later discovered that he is not the child’s father, either he or the child’s mother can complete a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage Rescission form. This document cancels the declaration of paternity. Significantly, the form must be filed with Child Support Services within 60 days of signing the declaration of paternity. Although only one parent is required to complete the form, the other must be notified by certified mail.
You can also challenge a declaration of paternity in court within two years of filing it with Child Support Services. But in order for a judge to grant the request to rescind the declaration, either the mother or father must be able to prove that they were forced to sign it under duress — or it was signed due to fraud or mistake.
Why is Establishing Paternity Important?
Establishing paternity is important for several reasons. When paternity is established, a biological father may assert custody rights and have a say in the child’s upbringing. He can have access to the child’s health and school records, sign documents on the child’s behalf, and take part in vital decisions regarding the child’s life. Notably, paternity also allows a father to foster a relationship with their biological child.
In addition, the following benefits may be conferred upon the child after paternity has been established:
- Child support
- Social Security
- Veterans’ benefits
- Inheritance rights
- Health insurance
- Life insurance
When a child knows the identity of their biological father, they can also have access to critical information about their family’s medical history — and learn whether they are at risk for any inherited health conditions.
Contact an Experienced Fresno Family Law Attorney
Family law matters can be stressful and overwhelming. If you have questions about establishing or contesting paternity, it’s essential to have a family law attorney on your side who can guide you through the legal process and protect your rights. The Law Offices of Rick D. Banks is committed to offering compassionate and knowledgeable representation to clients for a wide variety of family law matters — and obtaining favorable results in their cases.
The Law Offices of Rick D. Banks has been helping clients throughout Fresno and the surrounding area in their divorce and family law matters for more than 20 years. To schedule a no obligation consultation to discuss your legal issue, call (559) 272-8359.