It may surprise you to learn that just because you are someone’s biological father, you may not be their legal father. When a baby is born, there is no confusion about who the mother is. The father, on the other hand, must overtly claim their parenthood. This is most easily accomplished by being present at the birth and signing the birth certificate.
Sometimes, that isn’t possible. You must file paperwork to claim your fatherhood, legally called “paternity.” To add to the confusion, if the mother is married to another man, that man can sign the certificate and automatically receive paternity. You’ll have to battle this claim through further paperwork and possible courtroom appearances.
Here is the process for securing your fathers’ rights in California along with why doing so is necessary.
How to Gain Paternity in California
Both Parents Agree to Paternity
As we’ve mentioned, you can sign the child’s birth certificate at the hospital. If you must claim your paternity after that, and there is no opposition from the mother, you can both sign the state’s Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. For the form to clear, both signatures must be present.
There Is Opposition to Your Paternity
If the mother challenges your paternity, or it has already been claimed by another man, you must appeal to the courts. Biology may not be enough to secure your paternity in this case. A court always operates in a child’s best interests. If it believes the child will be better served without your fatherhood, it can deny your request. Make sure to work closely with an attorney when your paternity is challenged.
Gaining Paternity Later in the Child’s Life
The appeals described above normally have a time limit, within the first two years of the child’s life. Some men, however, discover they have a child much later in the child’s life. Getting paternity in this situation can be more complicated. It may require blood tests, and the court may give the child a say in whether they want you as their father. Once again, make sure you secure professional help if you need to secure paternity for an older child.
California is generally favorable to parents’ rights. If you truly wish to have paternity, and you know you would be good for the child, don’t give up. Get a good lawyer, and keep fighting.
Why Paternity Is Important
Put simply: If you are a child’s legal father, you will remain their father forever. The only way this will change is if the court deems you a danger to the child and removes your rights. If you care enough to fight for your paternity, this scenario does not apply to you.
Being a legal father comes with certain rights:
- Visitation and Custody
Again, the state wants kids to be with their parents. If you have paternity, you have a right to visitation and potentially joint custody. These rights cannot be blocked by the other parent.
- Passing Along Benefits
As the father, you can name your kids as beneficiaries on certain plans like health insurance. Also, they automatically inherit some of your property after you pass, even if you don’t have a will.
- Child Support
It’s easy to see child support as a burden, but it’s more helpful to see it as a right and a privilege. It allows you to directly contribute to the child’s welfare no matter how often you see them. The other parent cannot block your payments, and they cannot spend this money on themselves.
Securing your paternity can also have emotional benefits. Becoming the legal father makes your relationship “official.” This is more than just a symbolic gesture. It means that you and the child are forever connected, and no one can legally separate that relationship.
If you need help with paternity in California, call our office at (805) 633-4999. We can give you a free consultation. You can also reach out to us online.