About Paternity Rights

In the legal context, paternity refers to the state of being someone's father. In general, if the parents are married at the time the child is born, there is no question about the child's parentage. The law naturally assumes that the husband is the father and the wife is the mother; therefore, where the parents are married paternity is automatically established in most cases. In contrast, when the parents are not married, then parentage of their children must be established legally.

In California, establishing parentage involves obtaining a court order or signing off on an official Declaration of Paternity that states who the child's legal parents are. To illustrate, if the parents were not married when the mother became pregnant or when the baby was born, then her child would not have a legal father until parentage is established. Therefore, even if the father is able to prove that he is the biological father of his child, if he was never married to the child's mother, he has no legal rights or responsibilities for his child. In order to obtain these legal rights and responsibilities, parentage must be legally established.

Establishing Parentage Before Entering Court Orders

As a child's mother or father, it's important to consider the effects of establishing paternity. Keep in mind that it will be necessary to establish paternity before the court will issue any orders in regards to child custody, visitation, or support. However, during a paternity action you can ask the court for child support or custody and visitation orders as a part of the case that establishes paternity.

In most cases mothers seek to establish paternity in order to obtain child support and possibly medical benefits for their child from the biological father. However, they must take into consideration that providing the father is a good person, he may very well seek custody or in the least visitation of his child. On the other hand, when fathers commence a paternity action, they generally have the motivation of playing an active role in their child's life and this may include acquiring significant visitation time with their child.

If the mother is going to court to seek child support and if the father refuses to admit that he is the child's father, then the court may order that the alleged father, mother, and child submit to genetic testing. Once it has been established that a man is the father of his child, he will have all the rights and responsibilities afforded to a married father, some of which include:

  • He can request custody and visitation orders from the court so he can legally visit with his child.
  • He will be responsible for paying child support, as well as half of the uninsured health-care costs and half of the childcare costs that result from the mother having to get a job or having a job or attending school.

Important note: Once it has been established that a man is the father of a child, he MUST financially support his child. In California, it is a crime for the legal father to fail to support his child. Furthermore, a legal father has the right to child custody or visitation rights to his child.

Reasons for Establishing Paternity

Establishing paternity is very important for a child, for a child benefits emotionally from knowing who his or her father is. What's more, by having a legal father the child enjoys the same rights and privileges as those children whose parents are married. These rights and benefits include: 1) financial support from both of the parents, 2) legal documentation that identifies both parents, 3) having both parents' names on their birth certificate, 4) access to family medical history, 5) health and life insurance from either parent, 6) the right to inheritance from either parent, and 7) the right to receive Social Security or Veterans' benefits where applicable.

Once paternity is established the court can enter orders for child support, custody, visitation, health insurance, name change, and reimbursement for pregnancy and birth-related expenses. Until paternity is established, the court cannot enter orders regarding any of these issues. To learn more specifics about establishing paternity, please contact The Law Offices of Gary J. Beeler, Esq. for further assistance.