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Child Support

Rights of Unwed Fathers in California

It is quite common in today’s modern culture for children to be born to unmarried parents. Because of this, many questions arise concerning the rights and responsibilities of unwed fathers. Do they have inferior or superior custody and visitation rights? Do they have any rights at all? Can the mother collect child support? Do their children have inheritance rights or rights to Social Security benefits?

Under California law, the rights and responsibilities of unmarried fathers toward their children can be somewhat murky. In California, the husband is generally the presumed father of a child born into a marriage. Where there is no marriage, that presumption may still exist but is dependent on establishment of certain facts that must be proved.

The good news is that in most instances, at the time of birth and if the father was present at the hospital, he was presented with a voluntary declaration of paternity that can be used to prove fatherhood.

Establishing Paternity is critical to a father’s custody rights, but also to the child’s right of inheritance, medical insurance and receipt of certain public benefits including derivative social security benefits.

Establishing Paternity (Legal Fatherhood)

In California, paternity is generally established by one of three ways: 1) the mother and father voluntarily sign a Declaration of Paternity form at the hospital shortly after the child’s birth, 2) the Parents agree on paternity in court papers, or 3) through court-ordered genetic testing (a DNA test).

A Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form, signed by the father, has the same effect as a court order in establishment of Paternity. However, that form does not create any custody, visitation or support rights, and these issues must be pursued through court proceedings. Even if there is agreement between the parents, the terms of that agreement should be turned into a court order. There is also a limited window of time within which to challenge or undo the Declaration of Paternity so if there is any doubt concerning who is the child’s father, this form should NOT be signed. Instead, a DNA test should be done to confirm paternity.

The DNA Test

The court-ordered DNA test is very simple and painless. All that happens is a sample of the child and the alleged father’s DNA is taken from inside their mouth with a cotton swab that resembles a Q-tip. There are no needles or blood samples involved. In a contested action, the court will generally not accept home DNA tests.

To start a paternity case, we invite you to contact The Law Office of David A. Martin & Associates by calling (916) 299-3936 today.