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Paternity Tests and Father’s Rights in Orange County Family Law


Do Fathers Have Parental Rights in California?

Unlike years ago, when the mother was largely considered to be the parent with rights, fathers today have more say and rights when it comes to their children. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t have to assert those rights legally. While many recent court cases in California have reaffirmed that fathers should be treated equally, it’s vital that fathers going through a divorce process be prepared to have to claim their rights.

What Rights Do Fathers Have in California?

California’s family court judges are legally prohibited from considering gender as a deciding factor when it comes to determining parenting time (previously known as physical child custody), parenting decision-making (previously known as legal child custody), and child support. Today’s courts will look first and foremost at what’s in the child’s best interest. The priority, when appropriate, is as close to 50/50 responsibility between the parents, ensuring the child receives close to equal time with each parent and that both parents are involved in making major decisions in the child’s life, such as choice of education, religious upbringing (if applicable), medical care, and others.

How Can I Establish Paternity of My Child in Order to Pursue My Father’s Rights?

In California, when a couple is married at the time a child is born, the married couple is assumed to be the parents and registered as such on the child’s birth certificate. When a couple isn’t married at the time of birth, there are other methods to ensure paternity.

When unmarried, a document known as a voluntary declaration of paternity must be signed by both parents in order for the father to be listed as father on the birth certificate. Once that’s completed, paternity is legally established. This can be done at the hospital or later at places like a welfare office or superior court.

The father can claim paternity for up to three years after the child turns 18. In cases where there are doubts as to who the father is, the court has the right to order blood tests until the child turns 2.

Can the Mother Refuse to Put the Father’s Name on the Birth Certificate?

This is one area where parenting rights aren’t exactly equal. If the couple is unmarried at the time the child is born, the mother has the right to withhold the father’s name on the birth certificate, thus refusing to establish his paternity. In these cases, the mother has given birth and is clearly the mother. Because they weren’t married, the law won’t automatically assume the partner is the father.

It should be noted that there are cases in which the married father ends up excluded from the birth certificate, but there have to be compelling circumstances for that to happen.

What Is a Paternity Test?

A paternity test collects DNA from each person (including the child), usually through a cheek swab or blood sample, which a qualified medical professional then analyzes. The child’s DNA is then compared to both the mother’s and the alleged father’s to see if there’s enough match to determine paternity. This process can take a few days to up to two weeks.

DNA testing has advanced so far that today’s paternity tests are considered to be more than 99% accurate.

What if the Mother Doesn’t Want a Paternity Test?

Legally, the mother has the right to refuse the paternity test. Her signature is required to proceed. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t options for the father. In California, a man who believes he is the child’s father, even if the mother disputes it, can petition the court for what’s called an order on paternity. If the court agrees that the man could potentially be the father, it can order paternity testing. If the results indicate the man is, in fact, the father, the court can declare his paternity to be established.

What if I Don’t Believe I’m the Father of This Child?

Paternity tests work both ways. If you have a compelling reason to think that a child the mother claims is yours isn’t, you can ask the courts to order a paternity test. You’ll need to serve the mother with a Summons and Complaint Regarding Parental Obligations, and she has 30 days to respond. If they don’t, the court can declare them the legal parent of the child, not you.

If you were listed as the father on the birth certificate and want to be removed, you’ll need to go through the courts. One situation when this occurs is if a couple is married, the husband is presumed the father and listed at the time of birth but is actually not the biological parent.

These are complicated proceedings and shouldn’t be undertaken without legal help. It’s crucial to work with an experienced family law, father’s rights, and paternity attorney who understands the law and what’s at stake.

What Should I Do if I Need Help Protecting My Paternal Rights?

Call the Bledsoe Law Firm as soon as possible at 949-889-1227 to request a consultation. I understand how stressful this situation can be and how important it is to you to retain your paternal rights. At the consultation, I can guide you through the specifics of your case and determine the best approach to pursue desirable outcomes. My experience and knowledge can help you understand what’s ahead and how to manage the case.

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