How to Establish Paternity in California

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Paternity is a major subsection of family law in California. Every day, people file cases with the family courts in California seeking to establish parental rights, challenge paternity, contest a child’s adoption or modify a child support order. Cases involving paternity disputes can be difficult to handle alone. Luckily, you have the right to hire an attorney in San Francisco to help you through a case.

How a Lawyer in San Francisco Can Help Establish Paternity

Proving or disproving paternity, establishing your parental rights, modifying a child custody agreement, and addressing other parentage issues are complex by nature. A paternity action in California comes with special legal requirements and issues. An attorney with experience handling paternity disputes can help you through the legal process in San Francisco. A lawyer can answer your questions, explain confusing court proceedings and protect your rights 100% of the time.

Attorney Debra R. Schoenberg and her group of licensed professionals have spent over 35 years representing clients during complex and sensitive family law cases. She is a board-certified specialist who focuses exclusively on family law. We have the personnel, experience and resources to advocate for you and provide tailored counsel during any type of case. Whether you are trying to affirm, deny or handle other matters related to paternity, we can help. Contact us today to discuss your case confidentially with an attorney.

What Is a Paternity Action in California?

A paternity action – called a parentage action in California – is a legal process in which the courts officially confirm someone to be the father of a child. It is a case that states who the parents of a child are and makes the decision legally binding. A paternity action is usually necessary if the parents were not married at the time of the child’s birth or if there is another reason for either parent to question the child’s paternity.

When two parents are married or in a registered domestic partnership at the time of a child’s birth, the California courts do not question parentage. Each spouse will automatically assume parental rights over the child. Unmarried parents, however, much legally establish paternity. This may take a paternity action in a court of law in San Francisco if both parents did not sign the birth certificate.

Only a mother, an alleged or putative father, a child or the state may file a paternity action in California. A paternity action may be necessary if an alleged father is seeking parental rights, such as custody or visitation. A mother who is seeking child support may also file a paternity action to establish the identity and legal responsibilities of the child’s father. Finally, a child may file a paternity action to establish his or her parentage.

How to Prove or Disprove Paternity in California

If you are filing a paternity action to prove you are a child’s father, or if you need to combat an allegation that you are a child’s father, a paternity dispute attorney in San Francisco can help. At the Schoenberg Family Law Group, we use smart and proven legal strategies to help our clients meet their goals. We understand how these cases work in California and what you will need to prove or disprove to achieve your goal. Most paternity actions center on one main source of evidence: a DNA test.

Establishing or challenging parentage generally requires genetic testing. If you admit to being a child’s parent, you may not need to submit to genetic testing. Otherwise, the courts may order you to undergo a DNA test. In a paternity action, once you prove you are the biological father of a child, you will still need to legally establish parentage to obtain parental rights (unless you were married to the mother). This will take asking a judge to sign an official declaration of parentage.

In an action challenging alleged paternity, a DNA test that proves you are not the biological father of the child could be enough to force the mother to drop the case against you. If you are a presumed parent (e.g. you were married to the child’s mother at the time of birth or put your name on the birth certificate), you may need to prove the presumption that applied to you was false or fraudulent. For example, you may be able to challenge presumed paternity if you thought a child was yours but later learned it was not.

What Rights and Responsibilities Does a Father Have in California?

Being a parent is a great responsibility. If the courts in San Francisco confirm someone’s identity as a child’s father, that person will have certain legal rights and duties. Families have a lot on the line during paternity actions. Both parents could be facing a lifetime of financial responsibilities. A child could receive financial support from two parents, access to medical history, health and insurance coverage, the right to inheritance, and other benefits. If the courts in San Francisco sign a declaration establishing parentage, fathers will gain certain rights and responsibilities.

  • The right to seek physical custody and visitation orders from a judge.
  • The right to seek parental decision-making powers (legal custody).
  • The requirement to pay a child support order.
  • The responsibility of paying half of care, education and health care costs for the child.

Before establishing paternity, a mother is very limited in her ability to request an order for child support, pregnancy expense reimbursement and health insurance. Establishing paternity, however, gives the courts the right to make orders for child support, custody, parenting time, insurance and other issues. As a father, establishing paternity could give you these responsibilities. You will also, however, obtain all the legal rights that come with officially being a child’s father, such as the right to submit a request for custody.

A father’s rights and responsibilities involve a  highly complicated area of family law in California. Presumed parenthood, established parentage, DNA tests, disputing parentage and same-sex marriages are all factors a paternity action could involve. The best way to protect your rights while you sort through the legal process is to hire an attorney. Contact the Schoenberg Family Law Group 24/7 for counsel about a paternity action in San Francisco. We can help you handle your case.

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