Securing Your Rights in California Paternity Cases

Determining a child’s paternity can set the tone for their development. From making it possible to secure financial support to ensuring that your kids understand their roots, paternity determinations are a critical aspect of modern child rearing in California.

Ratzer|Dobis has spent years helping parents in Solana Beach and San Diego County understand their paternity options. We’re devoted to clarifying the often-confusing particulars of and family law issues, and we work hard to furnish our clients with representation and advocacy that empowers them to make more intelligent choices in the courtroom and beyond. If you need help with your paternity case, the skillful Solana Beach paternity lawyers of Ratzer|Dobis are here to assist.

Why Choose Our Family Lawyers?

  • We understand what you and your family need during a paternity case. We will work around the clock to make sure that your rights are protected.
  • Jim Ratzer and Morgan Dobis are certified family law specialists. This means they have attained additional education in family law and been certified by the State Bar of California.
  • Our lawyers will treat your case as if it were our own, with efficient, effective and affordable legal services that are tailored for your unique needs.

How Does Paternity Work in California?

In California, if a man and woman are married at the time a child is born, then the father is presumed to be the father. However, if they are not married, men can sign a declaration of paternity stating that they’re a child’s natural father so that their name gets added to a birth certificate — but things aren’t always that easy. Mothers may have to pursue independent paternity verification through means like DNA testing, in which case a court may order a change to a paternity record even if the father resides in another state or doesn’t cooperate. Paternity is important because it’s a prerequisite for many other matters, including:

  • Child support and custody
  • Access to medical records
  • Receiving various assets, like insurance policy payouts, veteran’s payments and inheritances

At Ratzer|Dobis, our family law attorneys understand that paternity can be a touchy subject. We work with fathers and mothers alike, helping them gain the diverse advantages that come from establishing legally valid family relationships. By offering informed representation, our Solana Beach paternity attorneys help cement the bonds that define families and ensure that moms, potential dads and children benefit.

Why Is Establishing Parentage of a Child Important?

 Establishing paternity or parentage can have many benefits for the child involved in the case. Even if you don’t wish to involve the father in your child’s day-to-day life, establishing paternity can give your child certain legal rights and benefits, including financial support from the other parent. Likewise, establishing your own paternity of a child can give you the ability to seek certain rights from the family courts, such as visitation.

Some of the many benefits that can come with a parentage determination in California are:

  • Providing the child with employment, insurance, Social Security or military benefits through the father
  • Making the child eligible for child support
  • Giving the child a chance to inherit from both parents when there are no wills
  • Answering questions that the child might have about his or her genes or ancestors
  • Obtaining the right to seek child custody or visitation as an established parent
  • Signing your name on your child’s birth certificate
  • Getting access to your child’s medical records

Taking advantage of these benefits requires securing your position as the parent of a child using a California paternity case. You will need to obey California’s related rules and procedures for establishing parentage through one of the two main ways that are available to prove paternity: consent from both parents or a court order.

How to Establish Paternity in California?

There are two accepted ways to establish paternity or parentage in California. The easiest is voluntary declaration. This is a viable option if the father of the child is willing to come forward and accept parentage of the child. Voluntary declaration typically occurs at a hospital when a child is born, by both parties putting their names on the birth certificate. However, it can take place at any time after the child is born by visiting a public agency to complete the voluntary declaration of paternity form. 

These public agencies include your local child support office, welfare office, registrar of births and a family law facilitator. Both parties must fill out the required paperwork and sign it in front of a notary. Then, they must file it with the California Department of Child Support Services. This will establish paternity without either person needing to go to court. If you were not married at the time of the birth and the other parent refuses to sign a voluntary declaration of paternity, however, your only other option is to go through the court system. 

Follow the required legal process, starting with filling out the correct paternity paperwork. This will include the Petition to Establish Paternal Relationship, Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, and the Summons for the other party to receive. Make at least two copies of these forms after having them reviewed by an attorney or family law facilitator. Then, file them with the court clerk and pay the filing fee (or ask for a fee waiver).

Next, you or a professional will have to serve the papers on the other parent to notify them of your intent to go to court to establish paternity. If the other parent is deceased, you must serve the papers to certain other relatives of the child, such as the person with physical custody of the child. The other parent has 30 days to respond. If the response is positive, the two of you can go through with voluntary declaration instead. If the other parent wishes to argue against your paternity claim, the case will go to court, where you will have to prove your parentage. In this case, an attorney can help you meet your burden of proof.

Does a Father Have to Pay Child Support Once Child Support Is Established?

One of the main reasons that paternity needs to be determined is to ensure that both parents pay their fair share of child support. When paternity is established, the father is responsible for providing support for the child. The child support formula used by the state of California will be used to determine how much child support payments will be.

What Happens to Custody When Paternity Is Established?

When paternity is established, the father can request custody and visitation rights through the California family court system. The court will take various factors into consideration when determining custody decisions. This will include the financial stability and living situation of both parents as well as other factors like where the child has spent most of their time.

What If a Married Woman Gets Pregnant With a Child That Isn’t Her Husband’s?

There are times when a married woman may get pregnant from a man other than her husband. This can lead to incredibly complex paternity issues because California automatically assumes that two married parents are the child’s biological parents. When this happens, the mother’s “boyfriend” has the right to ask the courts for a paternity test. However, he will only have two years to do so. After those two years, the woman’s husband will be considered the child’s legal father, and the biological father will lose his parental rights to the child.

If the husband and wife later divorce, but the husband has been determined to be the legal father, then this will proceed like a regular divorce. The husband, though not the biological father, will be responsible for child support and have custody and visitation rights.

Why Do You Need an Attorney for a Paternity Case?

Just like other family law issues, establishing paternity can be incredibly complicated. If you are a mother who is looking to establish the paternity of a father who is not fulfilling his responsibilities to their child, you may face pushback from the alleged father. If you are a father who is being shut out of his child’s life, then establishing paternity will help ensure your rights are upheld. Regardless of why you need a paternity attorney in San Diego, your lawyer will be responsible for:

  • Handle all documentation necessary that needs to be filed with the courts.
  • Help ensure that the results are submitted to all appropriate agencies.
  • Help mothers ensure that child support payments begin (if applicable).
  • Help fathers ensure their rights are maintained concerning child support and custody.

Your attorney will be your advocate, the person who handles this emotional issue for you. They will ensure you understand the court processes, what your responsibilities are for each step, and work to ensure a fair conclusion to your case.

Providing Representation for All Parties

Paternity is often portrayed as a one-sided issue, but it’s far more complex than many people give it credit for being. A father who denies their paternity may simply be unaware that they’re a biological father, and a mother who seeks to establish someone as a father may be operating on a mistaken assumption. Retaining legal representation can make it much easier to work through such confusing circumstances without your preconceptions making it harder to come to terms with the other parties.

To find out more about paternity, DNA testing or any other family law topic that affects you call our Solana Beach paternity attorneys at (858) 793-7700. We’re dedicated to helping you establish your family ties so you can benefit from California’s paternity laws.


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