Paternity law covers all aspects of the law regarding being a father. Many factors complicate paternity issues, so it is vital to seek the counsel of a trusted paternity attorney to navigate the process. Many times, families facing questions about child paternity assume that a simple DNA test will solve all their problems, but that is not always the case.
Anyone facing difficult circumstances that involve a child’s paternity should understand a few basic facets of paternity law. This will help clarify the legal process and allow you to address issues such as child custody and support.
The Basics of California Paternity Law
The first thing an individual needs to know when facing paternity issues is what paternity law covers. This term refers to legislation that governs legal responsibilities between fathers and their children.
Some paternity cases are fairly cut and dry, such as those where a married couple has a child. California paternity legislation makes a legal assumption that the husband is the father of the child in this scenario. This holds true even if the couple was unmarried at the time the mother became pregnant.
However, in many cases, an unmarried couple has a child, and paternity issues become significantly more complicated. When an unmarried couple has a child, the father is given the option of signing an “Acknowledgement of Paternity” document as a means of confirming paternity. However, if the father opts out of signing this document, the mother may need to seek legal recourse to hold the father responsible for their child.
In other scenarios, it may be necessary to establish paternity, as it is unclear who the child’s father is.
Why Should You Establish Paternity?
There are various legal benefits to establishing paternity in California, including the following.
- Financial and legal reasons. Based on that knowledge, a child who has a known father stands to benefit financially and legally. For instance, the biological father of a child may be required to serve as a guardian or pay child support. Parents may want to establish paternity for legal and financial reasons, since they may not want to be held responsible for a child that is not biologically theirs.
- Parenting rights. If a father has proof they are the biological parent of a child, they may have an easier time exercising their right to raise or parent the child. This is often a benefit to the father and child alike, as they gain the valuable opportunity to share quality time.
- Medical information. There are potential genetic disorders and diseases that a child may inherit on their father’s side in some cases. The child needs to know of this medical history. For this reason, knowing the child’s true paternity and having access to the father’s medical history is crucial to ensuring good health.
How Do You Establish Paternity in California?
Paternity testing is the only guaranteed way to establish the biological father of a child. There are several options for genetic testing, including the following.
- Prenatal test. In many cases, one or both parents wish to determine a child’s paternity before birth. This can be done using a prenatal test after the mother has been pregnant for at least eight weeks. The most desirable prenatal test is called a non-invasive prenatal paternity test. This type of test is safer than other types because it determines paternity using a blood sample taken from the mother. When a mother is pregnant, she shares blood with her unborn baby, making it possible to establish paternity this way. Once the sample is taken, it is possible to isolate the DNA of the fetus and determine paternity.
- Blood test. Once a child is born, it is possible to establish paternity using their own blood. These tests have high accuracy rates but are not 100%. Although they are useful, they may be disputed. Blood tests use the child’s blood type to determine who is likely to be the child’s father. Since blood type is partly determined by genetics, this method of testing paternity is considered a reasonably clear indicator. In many cases, a second test is conducted to confirm the results and bolster the accuracy of the first.
- DNA test. A DNA test is the most accurate paternity test available today. These tests take blood or tissue samples from the child, analyze the DNA, and compare it to the potential father’s. Unlike blood tests, which are only able to determine the likelihood that an individual is a child’s father, DNA tests are never wrong. They are 100% accurate and are typically conducted twice to ensure accuracy. When a DNA test is conducted, the father, mother, and child are all required to provide a tissue sample, which is typically procured by swabbing the inside of the cheek.
Unique Situations Involving Paternity Law
Certain paternity cases are more complicated than others, such as the following scenarios.
- Determining paternity after divorce. In some circumstances, a father may question whether he is the biological parent after he and his wife divorce. In some cases, this looming question is a factor that led to the divorce. Although he is the child’s legal father, if he and the mother were married when the child was born, that doesn’t necessarily mean he is the child’s biological father.When the couple divorces, the father’s parental rights are not affected, but a paternity test may change that if it shows that he is not the child’s biological father. In this situation, a skilled family lawyer can be a great asset, as the father may be required to pay child support or be granted custody regardless of biological paternity status. The courts are charged with acting in the child’s best interest, no matter who the biological father is.
- A married mother who has another man’s baby. A married couple may still be together when the husband discovers he is not the child’s biological father. There are many factors involved in these unique cases, and a knowledgeable legal professional is typically the most effective means for the father to maintain his rights as a parent. In some cases, the father may need to fight to keep his child if he wishes to do so.
Trust an Experienced Paternity Attorney
If you are facing paternity issues, it is common to have questions. The Law Office of Stephanie J. Squires can provide you with answers and direction. Reach out to us today to see how we can help.