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The Importance of Establishing Paternity

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?


(Photo courtesy of Cia de Photo)

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