About Paternity Rights
In the legal context, paternity refers to the state of being someone’s father. Generally, if the parents are married when the child is born, the law presumes 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 the parentage of their children must be established legally.
In California, establishing parentage involves obtaining a court order or signing an official Declaration of Paternity that states who the child’s father is. This is normally done at the hospital where the child is born in order to place the child’s name on the birth certificate. However, this is not always done. Parents are. Until parentage is established, the child has no legal father obligated to provide support or other benefits such as health insurance or rights under Social Security.
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 issues any orders regarding 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 to obtain child support and possibly medical benefits for their child from the biological father. However, they must consider that assuming the father is considered a fit parent, he may seek visitation or even joint or sole custody of the child. On the other hand, when fathers commence a paternity action, they are generally motivated to play an active role in their child’s life, which may include acquiring significant visitation time with their child. That time often comes with a child support obligation.
If the mother is going to court to seek child support and if the father does not agree that he is the child’s father, or if there is a question about the child’s paternity, 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 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 healthcare 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, a parent’s failure to financially support the child can be prosecuted as a crime.
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 get in touch with McKean Family Law for further assistance.