Articles Posted in Paternity

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In 2011, the California legislature passed a law that limited the parental rights of fathers as sperm donors in order to provide gay parents with greater legal protection in custody disputes.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed the Protection of Parent Child Relationships Act into law in August 2011. The bill passed the Senate by a 23-14 vote in July of that year. The bill was an effort by California legislators to provide gay parents with greater parental rights by making it more difficult for sperm donors to claim legal parentage.
Before the law went into effect, when a married couple or a couple in a registered domestic partnership had a child, they were deemed to be the child’s presumed legal parents. In addition, a man who believed he was the biological father of a child could sign a voluntary declaration of paternity, with the consent of the biological mother.

A 2009 California Court of Appeals decision held that in a dispute between a presumed father and an individual who had signed a voluntary declaration of paternity, regarding legal parentage, the latter would prevail. This was true even when the presumed father had raised the child since birth and the father who signed the voluntary declaration of paternity had neither an existing relationship with the child nor intended to have a relationship with the child in the future. baby feet.jpg

The Protection of Parent Child Relationships Act changed the existing law by requiring courts to consider and weigh claims presented by both a presumed parent and an individual who signed a voluntary declaration of paternity when the two parties had competing claims of parentage. In doing so, the legislature adhered to the California Supreme Court’s stance that biology does not override established parental relationships.

A recent case interpreted the law to deny a father parental rights after he had a child with his girlfriend using medical procedures.

In a recent custody dispute between “Lost Boys” actor, Jason Patric and his former girlfriend, the court cited the Protection of Parent Child Relationships Act to deem the mother as the sole parent. The mother used a medical procedure to conceive the child at issue, using Patric’s sperm. As such, the court treated him as a sperm donor and deemed that he could not be considered the child’s father.

Some have criticized the Protection of Parent Child Relationships Act, arguing that it creates a loophole which limits the parental rights of fathers when unmarried couples use medical procedures such as artificial insemination to conceive a child. They state that the Protection of Parent Child Relationships Act has been misinterpreted and does not reflect the modern family construct where an increasing number of unwed couples are choosing to have children, some with the help of fertility treatments.

Senate Bill 115 attempts to close the loophole provide by the Protection of Parent Child Relationships Act, but faces opposition.

In March, Senate Bill 115, which seeks to address this loophole, was introduced to the California Senate. It passed the Senate without a single opposition. However, it has faced controversy at the California Assembly. Some argue that Patric and his former girlfriend, who each hired lobbyists to push their position at the legislative level, should not be allowed to try and circumvent a court ruling in this manner. Others are concerned about how this law would be reconciled with another bill being considered by the legislature, which would allow children to have more than two legal parents. The Assembly’s Judiciary Committee has delayed its hearing on Senate Bill 115 until August.

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In parentage cases, also called paternity cases, the court issues orders that say who the child’s legal parents are. If you are targeted by a paternity suit, you may be wondering what your options are. If you are served with a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship by the other parent, you have 30 days to respond. It is very important to respond, because after 30 days, the court may grant the petition and legally find that you are the child’s father without a paternity test.

If paternity is established, you will expected to provide monetary child support until the child is emancipated. In California, emancipation occurs when the child is 18 and graduates high school, but could continue until the child is 19, if they are unmarried and attending high school full-time.

If parents are married when a child is born, there is usually no question of parentage. The law assumes that the husband is the father and the wife is the mother, so paternity is assumed. However, if there is a question as to paternity, the assumption can be overturned.

Paternity can often be determined by highly accurate tests conducted on blood or tissue samples from the alleged father, mother, and child. Typically, such DNA tests are between 90% and 99% accurate. Originally in the 1950s, paternity was determined by comparing blood types of the tested parties. However, blood typing is not a completely accurate method of determining paternity. In the 1970s, a new test was developed using white blood cell antigens, which is able to exclude about 95% of falsely accused fathers.

With DNA testing, the genetic characteristics of the child are compared to those of the mother, and those characteristics that cannot be found in the mother must have been inherited from the father. Each individual’s DNA is unique, except in the case of identical multiples, like twins. DNA testing is the most accurate form of paternity testing. If the DNA patterns between the child and alleged father do not match on two or more DNA probes, then the alleged father can be ruled out. Generally, DNA testing is done through a blood sample or using a swab that was rubbed against the inside of the subject’s cheek. Children can be tested at any age, and the tests can even be run on an umbilical cord blood specimen at birth.

In California, if you do not wish to accept the results of the paternity test, you have the right to ask for another. However, you may have to pay for the second paternity test. Even with the proven accuracy of DNA testing, it is possible, although unlikely, that the results are inaccurate. DNA testing can be challenged for: tainted lab results, fraudulent lab results, proof of infertility or sterility, or proof that the tests were tampered with.

See related blog posts:
The Importance of Establishing Paternity
Methods of Determining Paternity

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A determination of paternity is a vital aspect to ensure a variety of legal rights. As our Northern California family law lawyers know, a determination of paternity must be made before many parental rights decisions can be made, such as child custody orders, child visitation schedules, and child support orders. Paternity can be determined in several ways, dependent on the circumstances of the individual case.

Methods of Determining Paternity Without Genetic (DNA) Testing:
If the parents of a child are married, there is a presumption that the husband is the father of the child. However, there are circumstances where this presumption may not be applicable to the case, such as when the husband is not physically capable of reproducing.
When the parents of a child are unmarried, paternity can be established by executing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity or by filing a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship. A Voluntary Declaration of Paternity is document stating by both the mother and the father that they both believe the father is the child’s biological father. By signing this form both parents are consenting to paternity being legally established. However, this can be changed by formal court judgment or genetic (DNA) testing at a later date. The Petition to Establish Parental Relationship is a court determination of the biological father of the child.
Determining Paternity With Genetic (DNA) Testing:
In the instance of parties disagreeing as to biological paternity in a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship, the court can order a genetic (DNA) test. Such a test can also be conducted in other instances upon request of the father if he believes he may not be the biological father.
DNA is biological material that determines a person’s physical appearance. It is inherited in part from the mother and in part from the father to create a unique DNA for each person. Parental relationships can be established by comparing the DNA of the mother, father, and child. Almost all cells contain DNA, including saliva, thus a genetic (DNA) test can be done by rubbing a sterile cotton swab inside the mouth of all three parties. father and son.jpg
The test can be performed in many locations. The Department of Child Support Services can perform the test and it is usually free of charge. If the test is court ordered there may be fees of up to several hundred dollars and they may specify where to have the test done as many private testing services may not be allowed. As the requirements are so specific, in our area it would be beneficial to contact a Santa Rosa paternity attorney.
Getting Legal Help in Northern California:
Beck Law P.C. can help guide you through the legal system if you are facing a paternity dispute. Our legal professionals are well versed in the intricacies of all paternity issues, including establishing paternity and contesting paternity. For a free consultation regarding the specifics of your case and any questions regarding California paternity law contact us at 707-576-7175 or contact us online. Do not delay in seeking help.
See Related Blog Posts:
The Importance of Establishing Paternity
California Paternity Law Attorney

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child (Cia de Photo).jpgIn the event that unmarried parents separate, both parties are faced with problematic legal issues. These issues hinge upon whether the paternity has been established. Paternity refers to the legal system recognizing a person as a child’s biological parent. As our experienced Santa Rosa family law attorneys know, the male figure in the relationship is not presumed to be the father if the couple is unwed and a child is born from the union.

Under California law, once paternity is established, parents assume the full rights and responsibilities involving their children. As discussed in a previous post, unmarried parents can establish paternity through the execution of a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity, or filing a Paternity Case with the court. If paternity is not established, each parent faces serious legal issues. The mother has no rights to recover child support from the father, and the father cannot seek custody or visitation rights with his child.

Not having the right to child support is a problem especially for unwed mothers, particularly those with low-paying jobs. In many cases a father may have begun paying child support. However, for a variety of reasons–perhaps because the relationship went the south–the father may stop paying. In those situations, paternity still must be shown to get a court order forcing payment of the support.

Although they cannot seek child support from the father without proving paternity, unwed mothers have other options for financial assistance. One such option is seeking financial assistance from the county. When the county disburses financial aid to the unwed mother, this does not relieve the father from providing financial support. The county is required to seek welfare reimbursement from the father by filing a lawsuit. To obtain reimbursement, the county must first acquire a court finding of paternity, establishing that the father is the biological parent.

Unmarried fathers may also face issues regarding their children upon separation from the mother. One of the major issues that unmarried fathers face is in regards to child custody and visitation rights. Oftentimes, unmarried couples agree upon a child visitation schedule without involving the court. In the event that the mother establishes that the schedule is no longer working, the father has no enforceable rights to visit the child unless he has a court order. Obtaining a court order will protect the father’s custody and/or visitation rights with the child.

As illustrated, establishing paternity is extremely important to enforcing certain rights for both the mother and father. Without the declaration that the father is in fact the biological parent of the child, both parents are in a position to lose certain rights that are presumed when paternity has been established. Due to the serious financial and emotional harm, it is vital for unmarried parents contemplating separation to seek legal advice from our Santa Rosa family law attorneys.

See Related Blog Posts:
California Paternity Law Attorney
What Rights Do You Have if You are Not Married and Your Relationship Ends?

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Not yet used - girl_silhouette.jpgPrior to a California court making a determination of child custody, child visitation and child support there first needs to be a determination of paternity and depending whether the parents are married or not, the law provides for different presumptions and procedures.

For example, when a married couple is living together and a child is born, as long as the husband is not impotent or sterile, it is presumed that the husband is the father. In several limited situations, this presumption may be challenged. .

If the parents of a child were never married there are different issues the parent must contemplate regarding the issue of paternity.

Parents who were not married may legally establish paternity through the execution of a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity, which is a document commonly available at any hospital. In essence, the voluntary declaration includes a statement by both the mother and father stating they each believe the declared father to be the child’s biological father and that they consent to paternity being legally established. When unmarried parents have a child born in a different state and the parents signed a voluntary declaration in that separate state, a California court will recognize a declaration signed in that different state.

The signing of the voluntary declaration does not prohibit the declared father from later having a court enter a formal judgment regarding paternity or having the voluntary declaration set aside if DNA tests show that he is not the biological father.

For the any unmarried parents that have never signed a voluntary declaration who wish to establish paternity, they must petition the court to determine paternity. This requires a parent to file a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship. However, the filing of a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship does not allow the court to make orders regarding child custody, child visitation and child support. The Petition to Establish Parental Relationship only allows the court to determine paternity and if a parent wants the court make orders regarding child custody, child visitation and child support, the parent must file a separate motion for those particular issues.

Once a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship has been filed by either parent, the parties can either reach an agreement if neither the father or mother contests the issue regarding who is the biological father. However, if neither party agrees a DNA test may be ordered by the court to either establish paternity or disestablish paternity.

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