Parentage and Paternity
In California, there is generally a strong public policy in favor of identifying two legal parents for every child living in the State. Therefore, California law provides several mechanisms for establishing the parentage of a child – both with and without the help of a court. In addition, the law provides various ways to confirm and – in some cases even contest – the identity of a presumed parent (usually the father) of a particular child in court. In some cases the court may have to conduct a trial to determine whether or not the legally cognizable parental relationship exists between an adult and a child.
This is a rapidly expanding and complex area of the law. Russo & Prince is one of the most experienced offices in the area in litigating and advising clients regarding contested paternity matters.
Establishing legal parentage will be very important for a child if his or her parents become separated or divorced, in the future, or if they were never married or lived together. It allows the child to be legally entitled to receive child support and gives both parents the legal right to make certain legal decisions regarding the child.
For example, when an unmarried woman gives birth to a child, or a married woman who is separated from her spouse becomes pregnant by someone other than her spouse, the biological paternity of the child may be in question. In such cases, an action under the California Uniform Parentage Act (sometimes called a "paternity action") can be used to identify, confirm and/or establish the genetic, and thus the legal relationship of who is the father to that child.
In California, parentage or "paternity" is sometimes (but not always) determined through genetic testing. In other cases, a person who is not biologically related to the child of another may in some manner develop a social relationship with that child that entitles them to rights and responsibilities of being the child's "second parent" (usually, but not always, the child's father), despite the lack of a genetic connection. Assisted reproduction technology, and same-sex marriages and domestic relationships can also give rise to complicated legal questions relating to a particular child's parentage. Such "non-genetic" parental relationships are sometimes formalized through different types of adoption proceedings, such as Step-Parent Adoptions. However, depending on the factual circumstances of a case, it is possible that they may also be established through the filing of a Uniform Parentage Action.
Who it is, precisely, that is entitled to file a court action as to the parentage of a particular child can vary depending on the differing factual circumstances of a given family. Most often a parentage action is commenced by a child's mother, her husband, a man who has reason to question whether or not he is either the child's biological father, or a man or woman who believes that he or she may be able to establish parentage rights as a result of an existing relationship that they have developed with another person's child. In addition to these private persons who may petition the court for a determination of parentage, a local government child support enforcement agency may also be eligible to do so.
Once the parentage of a child is established, both legal parents are usually entitled under the law to some level of relationship with the child, either through full custody, partial custody, or court-mandated visitation. The court can also order the payment of child support as between a child's two parents, if such orders are requested by either or both of them.
When facing the challenge of proving or contesting your child's parentage, it is to your benefit to consult with a lawyer who is not only experienced in family law generally, but has specific knowledge and experience in the specific – and relatively complicated -- area of California parentage law. Here at the Law Offices of Russo & Prince, we have several experienced family law attorneys who can help you to understand the complex intricacies of parentage law and can guide you through every step of the process. The more you know, the better equipped you'll be to get through what can be a very difficult ordeal.