I’m Not Married to My Child’s Mother. What Rights Do I Have to My Child?

When a couple is married and has a child together, the law assumes that paternity is established and each parent has equal rights to the child. However, when parents are not married and a child is born, parentage must be established before the father has any legal rights to the child in the state of California. Likewise, when a child is born out of wedlock in the state of California, the child has no legal father until parentage is established. Therefore, from a legal perspective, it is essential that a father who is not married to his child’s mother take the appropriate steps to establish parentage to the child, as well as the legal rights that go along with parentage.

There are two different ways to establish paternity under California law. First, either parent can go to court and get a court order stating that a man is the legal father of a child. A court order establishing parentage often will address other legal matters related to the child, including custody, visitation, and child support. These types of orders cannot be addressed by a court until legal parentage of a child is established. If one parent does not admit that he or she is the parent of the child, then the court can order genetic testing before establishing parentage.

Alternatively, the parents can sign an official Declaration of Paternity, which is a document that legally establishes parentage. Parents can sign this document at the hospital when a child is born, at a local child support agency, at a registrar of births office, at a welfare office, or at the office of a family law facilitator at a local superior court. Once this document is signed, it must be filed with the California Department of Child Support Services Paternity Opportunity Program in order to be legally effective. Once the form is properly completed and filed, then it has the same legal effect as a court order establishing paternity for the child.

The Law Offices of Vincent W. Davis & Associates know how to handle paternity cases and the other issues that they involve, including custody, visitation, and child support. We understand how emotional and difficult these types of cases can be, and will be at your side throughout every step of the process. Contact our offices today to schedule a consultation with one of our California paternity lawyers and learn how we can help you with your case.