In California, if a couple is married when a child is born it is assumed that they are the child’s legal parents. However, when parents are not married, the parentage of their child may need to be established.
Establishing parentage is an important process that must be completed before a court can determine child custody, visitation or child support.
Options to establish parentage
There are two options to establish parentage. The parents can complete a voluntary declaration which legally establishes who the parents of the child are. It applies the same way a court order does, but the parties don’t have to go to court.
Once this form is signed, it must be filed with the California Department of Child Support Services to be valid. If the parents do not complete this form, parentage can also be determined through a court order.
In the event that a father is not sure whether he is the child’s parent, he can request a genetic DNA test. Usually, this is taken through a saliva sample. It is either completed through the Department of Child Support Services or by a court order.
Parents are financially responsible for providing for their children until they reach adulthood, with few exceptions. Once parentage is established, the parents are responsible for paying child support, health care costs and child care costs.
In addition to financial support, the child benefits from having legal documentation identifying both parents, access to family medical records, the right to inherit from either parent and to receive other benefits.
A family law attorney can help parents with their questions about this process, child support, custody and visitation.