Whether you're a mother or a prospective father, filing a paternity action can enable you to establish parental rights for a father and obtain support for a child in need. However, California paternity cases can be difficult to navigate, especially when one party refuses to work with the other.
At Feinberg & Waller, APC, our paternity lawyers help clients resolve paternity actions amicably and efficiently.
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Establishing Paternity in California
When a child is born in California to unmarried parents, they can choose to file a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity Form either at the hospital or post-birth. If both parents agree on paternity, filing this form enables the father to gain parental rights and puts their name on the child's birth certificate.
Signing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity prevents the father from pursuing actions that allow them to contest paternity, such as requesting a paternal DNA test. Generally, it's an option used by fathers who aren't married to the mother of their child but are certain of paternity and want to obtain parental rights.
If a mother or father wishes to establish paternity, but the other party disagrees on the validity of their parental status, they can file a paternity action with a California court.
You can file a paternity order in one of two ways:
- Through California Child Support Services (LCSA). If you work with LCSA, they'll collaborate with the court to help establish or disprove an individual's paternal status using tools such as DNA testing.
- Through a personal attorney. The LCSA often has a long wait-time for paternity orders. If you want to resolve your case more quickly, you can hire a paternity lawyer to represent you and file a paternity order with the court.
How Do Paternity Cases Work in CA?
Assuming you use a paternity attorney near you to file your paternity order, you will need to take the following steps:
- File a Petition with the court and serve the other party with a court summons. This involves providing the court with paperwork about the child, each party's relationship to them, and potential evidence of paternity as well as information about custody and support arrangements.
- Attend a pretrial hearing. After receiving the Petition, the court will examine the case and decide whether to proceed.
- Undergo genetic testing. If the court does decide to proceed with the case, but one party fails to accept the paternity order, it can request a DNA test from the father, mother, and child. If the test confirms paternity, the court will instate paternity for the father and put them on the child's birth certificate. The court may consider a refusal of genetic testing as evidence of paternity.
Frequently, individuals file paternity orders when they find themselves caring for a child and wish to obtain additional support from the other parent.
Establishing paternity allows a child's custodial parent (who they live with) to:
- File for child support, obtaining financial support to help their child;
- Obtain assistance paying for health insurance for the child;
- Establish custody or visitation rights for the child's other parent.
Whether you're a mother or a father, establishing paternity in California can enable your child to receive additional support and live a happier, healthier life.
At Feinberg & Waller, APC, our current Calabasas paternity lawyers have over 150 years of combined legal experience representing parties on both sides of paternity cases. We can help you establish paternity for your child or defend you against an unjustified paternity order.
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