Child custody cases that are filed when the parents are unmarried are called a paternity
case and unlike a
divorce case, the case file is not part of the public record. Paternity is when
a man has been legally determined to be the father of a child, or children,
and therefore entitled to file for child custody, visitation, and possibly
child support, under California State Law.
Paternity can be established in a number of ways, including:
Whether or not the father is physically present at the birth of the child,
if his name is listed as the father on the birth certificate, and he signs
it, then the man is assuming parentage of the child and can be held responsible
for the child's care. It is especially important to note that if paternity
of the child is questionable, then the man should not sign the birth certificate
and accept parentage until he has met with an
experienced Family Law attorney.
Declaration of Paternity
In lieu of the child's birth certificate, both parents can sign a Declaration of
Paternity ackowledging the parentage of the child. This document is then filed with
the court and legally establishes the parentage and the responsibility
of care for the child. In California, a signed Declaration of Paternity
is required in order for the father's name to be listed on the child's
birth certificate if the parents are unmarried.
Petition to Establish Parental Relationship
Unfortunately sometimes the mother of the child either does not know, or
refuses to name the father of the child (or even in some cases names the
wrong man as the child's father). If a man suspects he is the father
and wishes to accept full responsibility for the parentage of the child,
then he should file a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship. This
will open up a case in which the court will legally make a ruling, based
on evidence presented during the case, as to the parentage of the child.
If the Petitioner is determined to be the father, then the court may also
make rulings as to child custody, visitation, and
Establishing parentage is a very important issue not only for the child
but both parents and it should not be taken lightly. Once parentage has
been legally established, it usually cannot be undone and you will be
held responsible for the child even if DNA evidence later proves that
genetically you are not the father.
If you feel you have a paternity case and would like the advice of one
of the professional attorneys at Richard Ross Associates,
contact our office today and we'll be happy to schedule you a consultation.