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How can California fathers establish paternity or parentage?

On Behalf of | Dec 19, 2023 | Family Law

When a woman gives birth to a child, there is no question about her biological relationship with the infant. However, there can be less certainty about a man’s biological connection to a child. If he hopes to maintain a relationship with his child, the state must know about it.

Paternity is the term many people use to describe a man’s relationship with his offspring. California uses the sex-neutral term parentage to describe someone’s biological relationship with a minor. Those seeking parenting time and other parental rights in California must first establish their relationship with the child.

How can someone establish parentage in California?

Through marriage

The simplest and most direct means of establishing parentage involves marriage. Someone married to a woman at the time she gives birth will benefit from a presumption of parentage. They can include their name on the birth certificate unless there are unusual circumstances.

Through paperwork

If the father hoping to establish his role in a child’s life has not married the mother of the child, then a voluntary acknowledgment may be the fastest solution. If the mother and father cooperate to fill out a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage form, it is possible to add the father’s name to the birth certificate after filing the document with the state. Many couples fill this document out at the hospital, but it is also possible to execute it after the birth of a child.

Through the courts

If the mother declines to fill out voluntary paperwork, then the courts can intervene. The California family courts have the authority to order parentage testing that will involve genetic tests. Such tests are quite accurate and reliable. Provided that the test validates a man’s claim of having a biological relationship with a specific child, the state can then add his name to the birth certificate regardless of whether or not the mother agrees to cooperate. Additionally, he can ask for parental rights, including visitation or shared custody.

Although it may take a few extra steps, a father will often benefit immensely from establishing parentage, especially if he does not maintain a romantic relationship with the mother of his child. Accordingly, understanding the California approach to parentage or paternity may benefit those eager to play an active role in the lives of their children.