How do you establish paternity of your child?

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Not every child in California is born to a married couple or even to a couple in a relationship. That can make getting child support a complicated situation for the woman, particularly if the father does not willingly acknowledge paternity. However, there are steps that the mother can take to establish the paternity of her child and get the child support she needs to help raise him or her.

There are benefits to establishing paternity beyond child support. Your child may be eligible for government benefits. Further, by legally determining who the father is, important medical records that could be essential to your child’s health and proper medical care can be accessed.

You don’t have to wait until the baby is born to begin the process of establishing paternity. If the man you believe is the father of your child denies it, you can take steps to order genetic testing. This test can be scheduled with a child support agency. However, it can only be done after the child is born. Some labs require that the child be a certain age, such as 6 months old.

If the man you believe is the father doesn’t have a job or money to pay child support, you may believe that it’s not worth the trouble to establish paternity. However, things change. Today’s out-of-work guitarist could be next year’s rock sensation. You never know. By establishing paternity, if and when he gets a job, you’ll have an easier time getting child support and other benefits for your child.

If the man you believe is the father is living outside of California, he can still be asked to submit to genetic testing and ordered to pay child support if paternity is established. The location of the father does not relieve him of paternal responsibilities.

In many cases, it’s helpful to get legal guidance to help ensure that paternity is established. The benefits throughout your child’s life can be significant. The sooner this is done, the better, both for you and your child.

Source: California Department of Child Support Services, “Establishing Paternity (Fatherhood) FAQs,” accessed July 15, 2015

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