A paternity action is a legal process to determine paternity — that is, to figure out the child's father. These actions are frequently started as a prelude to pursuing a child support order request. Our family law attorneys at the Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer recognize the sensitivity of paternity issues.
We realize that assisting our clients in reducing stress is an important element of delivering quality legal assistance. If you are facing any issues comprehending the legal procedure of paternity determination following a divorce in Los Angeles, we can assist you.
Overview of Paternity in Los Angeles
In California, the terms paternity and parental relationship or parentage are used interchangeably. Establishing paternity implies that a child's father has been determined either by the child's parents or the courts. There are various situations when the law presumes the father's identity, including:
- When a child is conceived during a marriage, the child's father is assumed to be the mother's husband, and
- Even though he isn't the biological parent, a man is considered to be the child's father if he's been residing with the mother and child in a family-like way and has shown a dedication to the child.
Paternity must be proven in the absence of these two conditions.
Getting a court mandate or signing an official declaration of paternity or parentage that states who the legitimate child's parents are is known as establishing paternity. If a child's parents weren't married when the mother was expectant or when the child was born, for example, the child doesn't have a legal father until paternity is proved.
Thus, even though a father can show he is the birth parent of the child, he has no constitutional rights or obligations for the child since he was never married to the child's mother. Paternity should be lawfully established for this to happen.
Until a court can grant visitation, custody, or child support, it must first establish paternity. As part of the lawsuit establishing the child's paternity, you can request the judge for child maintenance, visitation orders, or custody. When a father refuses to accept that he is the father of the child, the court may request DNA testing of the supposed mother, father, and child.
Determining paternity is crucial in same-sex parenting scenarios if the child’s parents were not married when the mother became expectant and conceived. If this unmarried couple chooses to co-parent and the one who didn't give conceive the child wishes to be recognized as a lawful parent, she must petition the court for an order recognizing her parental responsibility.
The individual seeking to establish themselves as the "other mother" could be ordered by the court to show that the couple planned for her to be the parent of the child. A same-sex relationship between two men meant to be the parents of the child would be treated similarly. They'd have to demonstrate to the court that they meant to be the parents of the child and acted accordingly.
When an individual is legally recognized as the mother or father of a child, they have all of the duties and privileges that come with being a parent:
- They will be entitled to ask the court for visitation or custody orders so that they may see their child lawfully.
- They will also be accountable for child support and half of the child's uncovered healthcare expenditures as well as half of the child maintenance costs
In California, a court may establish that a child has more than two parents. This is done primarily if the child might be affected if other parents weren't officially acknowledged.
A legally recognized parent has the freedom to obtain custody or visiting rights for their child. If an individual is legally recognized as a parent of a child, he or she is required to financially care for the child. A recognized parent who fails to maintain his or her children commits a felony. Paternity law is complex, so speak with your court's family law practitioner or an attorney to ensure you grasp the specifics of your case.
The most straightforward approach to verify paternity is to do so voluntarily. A "Voluntary Declaration of Paternity" is signed by the mother of the child. If a woman who is not married gives birth to a child in a hospital or other healthcare environment, the healthcare practitioners must fill out a VDP form or a voluntary declaration of paternity for herself (as well as the supposed father if he is available).
The parents acknowledge that they are the parents of the child and that the father is the legal father of that child by putting their signatures on the form. After that, his name can be added to the birth certificate, and he will have parental privileges and duties over him. If one of the parents is below the age of 18 at the time of signing the VDP, the proclamation will not take effect till sixty days after the young parent reaches the age of 18.
A paternity action is the other way of establishing paternity. According to California law, either of the below-mentioned individuals or organizations may petition the court for a paternity order:
- The mother of the child
- The individual who asserts he is the child's father and has already been recognized as the father (sometimes described as the "alleged father" or "putative father")
- The area child care agency that is helping the mother, or
- A child adoption agency
In case the child is below the age of 12, the court action may include him or her as a party. The kid shall also be regarded as a party in the lawsuit if he or she is above 12 years. In any case, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to speak on behalf of the child in court. The guardian ad litem will represent the child in court and advocate what is best for him or her.
Starting the Paternity Action
If a mother seeks child support from the state, the organization has the right to order the child, mother, and putative father to undergo genetic testing to ascertain the birth father. Whenever a mother wants child support as well as assistance or other government benefits, genetic testing is needed.
The local supreme court has the jurisdiction to demand genetic testing on the alleged father, mother, and child when the matter is taken to court. The court may regard the claimed father's refusal to participate as proof of parentage if he fails to comply.
Additionally, the court has the authority to order:
- Support for the child
- Insurance for the child's health
- The child's legal and physical custody, in other words, where he or she will reside
- If either or perhaps both parents would be allowed to make choices for their child
- Visitations rights which imply that the parent without custodial rights of the child gets to visit and see his or her child
- Payment of court expenses, which are the payments the court imposes to begin the suit
- Payment of appropriate attorney's costs to either party
The Presumed Parent
In certain situations, the law will infer that an individual is the child's parent (unless the court proves otherwise). A person is assumed to be a father of a child for example when:
- When the baby was born or conceived, he had been married to the mother of the child.
- He sought to get married to the mother (even though the marriage was void), and the child was born or conceived during that "marriage"
- Following the delivery, he married the mom and committed to have either his name on the child's birth certificate or to provide to the child
- He accepted the baby into his house and treated him as if he were his own. This is known as "parentage by estoppel," and it implies that even though a man isn't the birth parent, the court might rule that he is the father of the child if he has consistently regarded the kid as his own
Establishing Parentage For Child Support and Visitation
When you and your child's mother or father are undergoing a separation or divorce, you might have to determine parentage if you've not previously done this before the courts make decisions about child custody, visitation, and support.
Parentage is not presumed if you weren't married once the child was born. Rather, you as well as the other party will have to prove parenthood, either by signing the appropriate documents willingly or through alternative methods such as taking DNA tests.
For child support and visitation, proving paternity is essential. The other party can have no legitimate relationship to the child or duties to you as a co-parent unless you have established parenthood. In case the courts do not accept the other parent as the parent of the child, the other parent is not indebted to paying your child support after the divorce.
Until you determine paternity, you won't be able to compel the other parent to make the child support payments. Establishing paternity before proceeding with a divorce or separation lawsuit in Los Angeles is critical for your children's development and economic well-being.
When you're the parent whose parenthood has not been proved, you must do so before you may have custodial or visitation rights with your child. You won't be able to see your child after a divorce or separation unless you prove yourself officially as the child's father or mother.
Nevertheless, after parenthood has been established, the courts could award you visitation rights and/or shared custodial privileges of your child. In this situation, your former spouse won't be capable of preventing you from visiting your child. You will be able to take him or her to court and fight for an order of visitation if he or she attempts to deny you your rights.
Why is Establishing Paternity of a Child Necessary?
For a child, determining paternity is critical. Firstly, learning who the legal parents are provides emotional significance to the child. It also provides the child with the same constitutional rights and advantages as another child whose parents are in a marriage.
The following are constitutional obligations and privileges:
- Each parent contributes financially
- Legitimate documentation proving the identity of both parents
- Documentation proving the identity of both parents
- The child will have access to medical data and records of the family
- The child will have life and health insurance coverage from either of his or her parents
- Inheritance rights from any parent
- If granted, the right to collect veterans and social welfare benefits
Once paternity has been proved, the court can issue orders for health insurance, child support, custody, name changes, visitation rights, and compensation of birth and pregnancy costs. The court can't make the above orders without first confirming paternity. So, if one parent requires child support and another parent refuses to pay, the court would be unable to enforce child support till parenthood is proven.
It is also a smart option to determine paternity even though one of the child's birth parents doesn't have the finances or employment to maintain the child or would not want to be engaged in the child's development.
The advantages of establishing paternity for a child extend beyond financial concerns, as evidenced by the list earlier, which included matters like granting the child the right to receive child support or medical coverage in the future if either parent obtains employment or improves their economic state. If there are other parents in the arrangement, every one of the parents has parental rights and duties over the child.
Most men who aren't aware that they are dads are excited about the prospect of raising a child. In some cases, the mother of the child could hinder the father's privilege to be present in the child's development.
If a biological father wishes to care and support his child and is hindered by the mother or a related party, he is referred to as a "Kelsey S. father" in California. In these kinds of situations, the dad would then have to seek court orders to defend his responsibility to be in the child's life.
Genetic and Parentage Testing
Generally, an individual who is informed he is the child's father has the right to seek genetic (DNA) testing to determine for certain if he is the child's father. The genetic substance that defines a person's physical traits is known as DNA. DNA may be present in nearly every one of the cells of the body, and every human's DNA is distinct.
The mother is responsible for some of a child's DNA sequencing. Part of the DNA code is also passed down from father to child. As a result, the paternal connection of a father, mother, and child could be assessed by examining their DNA codes.
- Since saliva (as the remainder of the body) includes DNA, DNA samples may be obtained by gently stroking a cotton swab (for example a Q-tip) into n individual's mouth
- If the testing is done by the Child Support Services Department, neither identified parent will be charged
- In case the court requires the listed parents to undergo genetic testing, the cost of the testing might amount to a few hundred dollars
- In a parentage lawsuit, the court can not recognize independent genetic testing as proof except if the test has been authorized by the court
- When the court requires genetic testing, it will provide the information necessary for the tests to be completed
- Genetic testing performed in a private healthcare institution or at home will not be accepted by the court
If paternity is a factor in the impending support case, a regional child welfare agency could issue a ruling demanding genetic testing of the putative father. The order, however, can only be imposed under circumstances such as:
- Under penalty of perjury, the individual asserting paternity files a declaration including facts establishing the likelihood of sexual activity between the mom and the claimed father.
- The individual disputing paternity must provide a sworn declaration including information establishing the likelihood that the requisite sexual activity did not occur.
- The purported father has responded to the lawsuit, requesting DNA testing.
- Genetic testing is agreed upon by both the mother of the child and the putative father.
Defending a Paternity Suit
If you believe you're not the father of the child, you have many options for defending yourself against a paternity case. You might provide proof that you were infertile or impotent at the moment of conception if you had been married and cohabiting with your former wife.
If you win, the paternity case will be dismissed, and you won't be obliged to pay child support. Seeking genetic testing is yet another option. Bear in mind that you must make your petition within 2 years of the birth of the child.
Find an Experienced Paternity Lawyer Near Me
In case you are a father or mother trying to seek custody or visitation rights for your child, or a mother pursuing child support in Los Angeles, working through the formal parentage test procedure with the help of an expert family law attorney is necessary. Paternity issues may be difficult, and having an expert attorney on your side will ensure you get the best outcomes possible. Contact the Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer today at 310-695-5212 for assistance on any paternity issues you might be facing today.