Paternity Lawyer in San Diego, CA
When a child is born to parents who are married, the fact of their marriage is sufficient to recognize them as the child’s legal parents in the eyes of the law. But the cultural norm that once dictated that marriage is a necessary prerequisite to producing offspring has faded into history, and many couples and single women choose to begin families without the benefit of a marriage partner. Not only heterosexual couples, but married and unmarried same sex marriage couples are enjoying parenthood. Contact a San Diego, CA based paternity lawyer for a free legal consultation if you are in need of legal help.
Unless the parents are legally married or registered domestic partners at the time of the child’s birth, parentage is never assumed, but must be established legally by means of a California paternity action. If a single woman bears a child, even if it has been proven who the biological father is, he will not have parental rights until the court legally establishes paternity. If the woman proves the man to be her child’s biological father, she will still need to establish paternity in the court before being able to receive support for the child.
How to Establish Rights for Children?
After being presented with appropriate evidence, a court will determine who the legal parents are, which establishes certain important rights of the children, including the right to support. It also gives the legal parents both the right to visitation with the child, as the law aims to promote “frequent and ongoing contact” between a non-custodial parent and a child. It is important that children know who their legal parents are. Some of the rights children are entitled to from their married or unmarried parents including:
- The right to receive financial support from both legal parents
- Having a birth certificate bearing the names of both parents
- Being able to obtain health records and medical histories from both parents’ families
- Eligibility for health insurance benefits from either or both parents
- Inheritance rights from both parents
- The right to social security and veteran’s benefits, where applicable
- The right to know and spend time with both parents, in most cases
What Is Parental Presumption?
Parental presumption in family law is the belief that custody of a child should be granted to a fit biological parent before someone else who has a vested interest in the child. Presumed parents have the most rights in terms of child custody and visitation. There are exceptions to this rule, however, such as in a case where living with the presumed parent would not be in the child’s best interest. Parental presumption also will not apply to a case where a parent voluntarily forfeits custody, or a court removes custody and gives it to a nonparent.
Both men and women can use parental presumption to protect their custody rights. If you are an alleged parent who wishes to become a presumed parent to increase your custody rights, you can qualify in one of three ways in California.
- You sign your name on the child’s birth certificate.
- You receive an order from the family court establishing parentage.
- You have raised the child like your own.
In these situations, the family court will recognize you as a child’s presumed parent, granting you the parental rights that come with it. You will have the right to the reunification of a relocated child, as well as visitation or custody, depending on the case. If the child is in the foster care system, you will also get special preference when social services place the child. Establishing yourself as a presumed parent can be important if you wish to exercise your parental rights.
What Is Voluntary Paternity?
If you wish to voluntarily establish your paternity over a child in San Diego, you have the right to do so. Voluntary paternity can save you time by eliminating related court processes. You and the mother of the child will not have to go to court to establish parentage. Voluntary paternity can encourage a closer relationship between you and the child, as well as benefit the child with certain financial and insurance rights. You can acknowledge your voluntary paternity while at the hospital when the child is born, or else use other methods to do so later.
- Both parents sign their names on the birth certificate.
- You and your spouse sign a declaration of paternity.
- You sign a declaration later and request a new birth certificate with your name on it.
You must sign a declaration of paternity at a public agency, such as a registrar of birth or welfare office, or in front of a notary public for it to be valid if you do not sign it at the hospital. Upon signing the document, you must file it with the California Department of Child Support Services. This will establish your voluntary paternity without having to go to court. Once you file the paperwork, a judge can assign you custody and visitation as an established parent.
Establishing paternity voluntarily can make things easier if you wish to obtain the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent without a trial. However, doing so means you forfeit certain other rights, such as the right to genetic testing, the right to a court trial to determine paternity, the right to present your case (along with evidence and witnesses) to the family court, the right to receive notice of any related parentage hearings, and the right to have a family law attorney represent you.
Once you establish voluntary paternity, it can be impossible to undo. Even if genetic testing later proves that the child is not biologically yours, you cannot undo the establishment of parentage. You will still have a legal obligation to support the child, as well as the right to child visitation and custody. If you fail to meet your support obligation as an established parent, you can face fines and even jail time. Should you or your spouse change your mind after signing a declaration of paternity, however, you can rescind your declaration within 60 days.
How is Paternity Legally Determined?
It is indisputable who the mother of a child is, but determining the father will sometimes require a court order. There are several circumstances that, in most cases, will cause a court to name a man as a child’s legal father:
- If both parents voluntarily sign a Declaration of Paternity establishing the identity of the father;
- If the two were married at the time the child was conceived or born
- If the man tried to marry the child’s mother but the marriage was not valid, and the child was conceived or born during the period of the invalid marriage
- If the man married the mother after the child was born and agreed to have his name on the birth certificate or to support the child
- If the man openly accepted the child into his home and openly treated the child as his own. If the man assumed the role of father to the child, the court may declare him the legal parent even if he is shown not to be the biological father. This is referred to as “parentage by estoppel”
- If the man does not believe or admit that he is the biological father, court-ordered genetic testing of the mother, child and alleged father may be necessary to establish paternity
Every child has the right to know who his or her parents are. When parentage is disputed, it is often helpful to have a highly skilled and compassionate attorney by your side, to guide you through the process and represent your interests and those of your child before the court. At the Boyd Law Firm in San Diego, our family lawyers handle many California paternity cases, including high profile and celebrity paternity actions, with discretion and confidentiality. Call Boyd Law today to arrange for a no cost, no obligation meeting with an experienced family law attorney in San Diego, for the best outcome for you and your child.