San Diego Paternity Lawyer
Do you need to establish paternity in San Diego, CA? If so, call a San Diego paternity lawyer at San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC for help with your case at (619) 866-3756. We have over 30 years of experience helping families in San Diego County.
Our attorneys would be happy to discuss your paternity case during our consultation.
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Overview of Paternity Cases in San Diego
Becoming a parent can be an incredibly rewarding experience. At the same time, raising a child involves a tremendous amount of responsibility. As you can imagine, caring for the well-being of minors is of utmost importance in California and the state has laws in place to make sure that children receive adequate support.
That said, while generally anyone can be involved in a child’s upbringing, being deemed a legal father or mother means that you have specific rights as well as certain obligations. There are many ways in which one can establish paternity. We will cover the ways in which one can establish paternity:
- When parents are married.
- Parentage by Estoppel.
- Paternity through the court process.
Below, we review each case in more detail.
Circumstances Where Paternity is Presumed
When Parents Are Married
Paternity is presumed when parents are married. The same rule also applies to same-sex married couples. This means that you do not need to seek a court order establishing parentage under these circumstances.
Further, for married couples, paternity does not need to be pursued through a court process even if the marriage is later declared invalid. An example would be if the father was already married at the time. It also applies if a couple was not married at the time of the birth, but later married and both put their names on the birth certificate or agreed to support the child.
Parentage By Estoppel
Finally, there is what is known as “parentage by estoppel”. This simply means that if a parent has always treated the child as his or her own, paternity is established. This is true even if the person is not the biological father or mother.
Paternity Through the Court Process
In all other cases involving unmarried parents, paternity needs to be ordered by the court. Once it has been established, each parent has equal rights to custody and both share in the responsibility of supporting the child.
However, note that these rights and obligations can be challenged, but this would require a separate court proceeding.
Why Is It Important to Establish Parentage of a Child?
As mentioned, there are certain legal rights and responsibilities that come with a parentage determination. Even in cases where a parent is not involved in the day-to-day life of the child, he or she may still want some of the other benefits of legal parenthood, including:
- Being able to request child custody and visitation (parenting time)
- The right to seek child support from the other parent
- The ability to be listed on the child’s birth certificate
- Access to medical records
Note that there are also benefits that apply to children once paternity is established, including the right to:
- Inherit from both parents when there is no will
- Health and life insurance from either parent
- Receive social security and veteran’s benefits
Remember, in order for you and your child to take advantage of these benefits, you must have a parentage determination. Without this, you have no legal basis to request child support or ask for custody.
How Can I Establish Paternity in California?
With that in mind, there are two ways to establish paternity under California family code.
One requires the consent of both parents and the other is through a court order.
Voluntary Declaration of Paternity
As you might imagine, if a parent willingly consents to paternity, this is the most straightforward option. Here, the unmarried couple simply fills out and signs a document together, referred to as a declaration.
This typically happens at the hospital when the child is born. If the parents complete the declaration at this time, their names will go on the birth certificate.
The benefit of completing this form at the hospital is that neither parent needs to visit a public agency. However, the matter can instead be completed at a later date. In this case, the parent would need to obtain the declaration form from one of the following agencies:
- Local child support office
- Registrar of births
- Family law facilitator
- Welfare office
The declaration must then be notarized and then filed with the California Department of Child Support Services. Done properly, paternity is established at this time and the parents do not need to go to court.
Court Order to Establish Parentage
By contrast, if you are unmarried and the other parent will not sign a voluntary declaration, the matter must go through the court system. There is a legal process that you must follow, which starts with you filling out certain paperwork. These documents include:
- A Petition to Establish Paternal Relationship
- The Summons – this requires the other parent to respond to the Petition
- A Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
Note that if you want child custody to be established or a child support order to be made, there are additional forms to fill out. Once the documents are complete, the next step is to deliver copies of the forms to the other parent. This is referred to as service of process and you must file proof of service with the court. The other parent then has 30 days in which to respond.
Following service, the manner in which the case progresses depends on whether or not the other parent agrees with paternity. If the parent agrees, you will need to file additional paperwork. Further, more documents will need to be completed if you have agreed to resolve issues related to paying child support and custody. These matters must be approved by a judge.
In cases where a parent contests parentage, the matter will go to court. If this occurs, the father may ask for genetic testing to prove paternity. Note that for same-sex couples the process is more complicated.
In these cases, the issue would not be whether the person is the biological parent, but whether he or she agreed to become a legal parent. There may also be disagreement over child custody or child support payments that need to be resolved.
DNA Testing to Establish Parentage
As mentioned, if a father disagrees with paternity he can request DNA testing to prove parentage. This is typically accomplished through a simple saliva test. The test involved rubbing a cotton swab (Q-tip) inside of the person’s mouth to see if his biological materials match those of the child.
Now, if these services are completed at the Department of Child Support Services, there is normally no charge. However, if the court orders the test to be completed at a different location, the cost may be hundreds of dollars. Keep in mind that any private testing must be done in accordance with the court order. This means that at-home testing kits are not allowed.
With that in mind, having an attorney involved in your case will help ensure that any DNA testing performed complies with the law. It’s important to note that some labs will not test a child that is under 6 months of age. If this situation applies to you, consult an attorney for guidance.
How Can a San Diego Paternity Lawyer Help?
Establishing paternity is important for both you and your children. Given what is at stake here, you should have the best representation possible. Our attorneys in San Diego county are highly skilled in these types of cases and will investigate your claim thoroughly to determine the appropriate course of action.
Our team will complete the necessary paperwork and file the documents for you. This will give you the peace of mind of knowing that your case is being handled correctly. If paternity is contested, we will negotiate with the other parent or his or her attorney.
We will help you put together a custody arrangement and calculate child support. We are also prepared to bring these issues before a family court judge if necessary.
These cases can become complicated, particularly for same-sex couples or situations that require establishing paternity for a non-biological parent. For that reason, you want to make sure that you have a qualified attorney on your side that understands this process and will advocate for your interests.
Contact Our San Diego Paternity Lawyer Today for a Consultation
Our law firm specializes in handling all types of family law cases, including divorce, legal separation, and child custody matters. Attorney Puja Sachdev is a Board Certified Family Law Specialist with over 30 years of experience helping the people of San Diego, California.