Paternity cases are filed when two (or more) unmarried persons ask the Court to decide who a child’s legal parents are. The law assumes that if a child is born when the parents are married, then the married persons are the child’s legal parents. However, for unmarried parties, the parentage must be legally established, or a particular parent will not have any legal rights to custody or visitation of the child. To establish parentage, parents can get a Court order or sign a voluntary Declaration of Paternity form which can be filed with the Court.
Establishing parentage is necessary before any custody, visitation, or child support orders can be made, as the Court will not usually grant any legal rights to someone who has not been found to be a legal parent. After parentage is established, however, you can ask the Court to make child custody, visitation and support order as part of the case. You can also ask that you be granted legal custody rights to allow you to co-parent and be involved in the decisions affecting your child’s life, such as where they will go to school, and what doctor(s) will be providing health care to them.
If someone will not admit to being a biological parent, you can ask the Court to order a genetic test. Genetic testing is performed by swabbing the inside cheeks of both parent and child. The swabs are then sent to Court approved labs for testing and the results are provided to the Court who then make the appropriate parentage orders.
Once parentage is established, the newly recognized parent then has all the rights and responsibilities of any other parent. They will be able to request custody and parenting time and will be required to financially support their child. For the involved child, the child gains financial support, legal documentation identifying both parents, as well as potential access to health insurance coverage, and the right to inherit and receive other benefits from each of their parents.
In California, some children will legally have more than two parents. This happens when the Court determines it is better for the health, safety and welfare of the child to recognize additional parents.
The law presumes a person is a child’s other parents in several circumstances, for instance: the father was married to the mother when the child was conceived or born; the parent agreed to have their name placed on the birth certificate at birth; or the parent welcomed the child into their home and openly acted as if the child was their own.