California Paternity Testing Laws

You may need a paternity test if you want to secure child support and have access to medical records, government benefits, and health insurance for your child but have not established parentage. Parentage laws in California are complicated and involve court orders, genetic testing, legal parentage, and many complex court forms. It’s always in your and your child’s best interest to contact professional paternity attorneys in San Diego to help you handle a parentage case.

Parentage With Married Couples

Establishing parentage involves an official Declaration of Parentage or a court order that states who the legal parents of a child are. This is necessary before the courts will order visitation, custody, or child support payments. The law varies depending on the situation of the parents at the time of a child’s birth.

In California, if two parents are married when a child is born, the law assumes that the husband is the father and the wife is the mother. In these cases, the legal institute of marriage establishes paternity. As of January 1, 2005, the law assumes registered domestic partners are the parents when a child is born. However, this law is relatively new, and same-sex parents may need help from an attorney to clearly establish parentage.

Parentage With Unmarried Couples

If a child’s parents weren’t married when the mother became pregnant or at the time of birth, the child technically doesn’t have a legal father until the parents formally establish parentage. Even if a father proves via genetic testing that the child is his, he doesn’t legally have any responsibilities or rights for the child until the courts establish parentage.

Presumed Parentage

The courts can find that a man is the legal father of a child even if he’s not the child’s biological father based on the concept of “parentage by estoppel.” If the man has lived with a child and mother and demonstrated a commitment to the child, the courts will presume the man is the child’s father regardless of the results of a paternity test. In these cases, a mother wouldn’t need to order a paternity test to make the man responsible for child support.

Voluntary Declaration of Paternity

The simplest way to establish paternity is to sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. Both parents of a child must agree to sign this form, usually when an unmarried woman gives birth. By signing the form, both parents acknowledge they are the legal parents of the child. The father can then add his name to the child’s birth certification and has legal parental rights and responsibilities.

Paternity Action in Court

Another way to establish paternity is by going to court. Under California law, the child’s mother, a man who believes he’s the father of a child, a local child support agency, an adoption agency, or the child him or herself if over the age of 12, can ask the court for an order on paternity. The court has the authority to order paternity testing to determine the biological father of a child. Even if a father leaves the state before a judge proves parentage, the courts can order him to pay child support no matter where he lives.

Disputing Paternity

If you need to dispute the paternity of your child, ask the courts to order a paternity test. Serve your spouse with a Summons and Complaint Regarding Parental Obligations, to which your spouse must respond within 30 days. If he or she misses this deadline, the courts can establish your spouse as the legal parent regardless of paternity test results. Establishing parentage is an important part of being a parent that ultimately helps your child.