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What is Establishing Parentage?

Parentage cases, or paternity cases, are cases to determine the legal parents of a child. Establishing parentage means obtaining a court order that states who a child’s legal parents are.

Why Does Parentage Need to be Established?

When the parents of a child are married, there is usually no question about parentage. The law will assume that the married couple is the child’s legal parents. (Cal. Fam. Code §7540)

When the parents of a child are not married, the child has no legal father until parentage is established. This means that the father of the child has no legal rights or responsibilities for the child. This is when parentage needs to be established legally. This will make sure that the father of a child gets to see his child, make decisions about the child’s life, and provide for the child financially through child support.

How is Parentage Established?

In order to obtain child custody, visitation and support orders, parentage must first be established to determine who the child’s legal parents are. The child’s legal parents are the ones with legal rights and responsibilities to care for the child.

Parentage can be established by both parties signing a voluntary Declaration of Paternity. A voluntary Declaration of Paternity governmental form that, when signed by both parents, establishes them as the child’s legal parents. The form must be signed voluntarily. This is typically done when the parents are not married.

The other way to establish parentage is by getting a court order. This can include filing a Petition for Custody and Visitation, which is then followed by the court making orders to determine who the legal parents are. This can involve the court ordering genetic testing to be done by the parents and the child. If the genetic testing determines that the husband or presumed father is not the father of the child, the question of paternity will be dismissed and resolved accordingly (Cal. Fam. Code §7541). In any civil proceeding where paternity is a relevant legal fact, under California Family Code §7551, a court may order the parents and child to submit to genetic testing under its own initiative.

When is Someone Presumed the parent?

A person may be presumed the child’s other parent when:

  • He was married to the child’s mother when the child was conceived or born
  • He attempted to marry the mother and the child was conceived or born during this time
  • He married the mother after the child’s birth and agreed to have his name on the birth certificate
  • He welcomed the child into his home and treated the child as though it were his own

What Happens After Parentage is Established?

Once parentage has been established, the legal parents must financially support the child. It is a crime in California for a legal parent to fail to support their child. Legal parents will also have the right to get custody or visitation rights regarding the child.


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