Establish Paternity or Dispute Paternity
How to Establish Paternity
There are two ways to establish paternity when a child’s parents are not married: a voluntary Declaration of Paternity or a court order.
Declaration of Paternity
The first way to establish paternity is to sign a voluntary Declaration of Paternity. The voluntary Declaration of Paternity is a governmental form you sign to declare yourself as a legal parent of a child. Both parents must sign the voluntary Declaration of Paternity in order for the declaration to be effective. When it is signed, the Declaration of Paternity has the same effect as a court order establishing paternity, without having to go to court.
When the Declaration of Paternity is signed, the form must be filed with the California Department of Child Support Services in order to take effect. The hospital staff can assist you by forwarding your signed declaration to the Department of Child Support Services. They must forward your signed declaration to the Department of Child Support Services within 20 days after the declaration is signed. The hospital staff can also serve as witnesses to your signatures.
If you are unable to sign the declaration at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth, you may still complete a declaration at any time after the child’s birth. You and the other parent must sign the declaration, get the document notarized, and mail it to the Department of Child Support Services. The declaration forms are available for free at all local child support agency offices, offices of local registrars of births and deaths, courts, and county welfare departments within California.
In addition, it is important that the form is signed voluntarily by both parents. If the Declaration of Paternity is signed due to duress or force, then the declaration can be invalidated.
The second way to establish paternity is to get a court order. Either you or the other parent may begin paternity proceedings. If you wish to commence paternity proceedings, the case must be filed in the county where the child lives. Normally, paternity proceedings begin when you or the other parent requests the court for child custody, child support, and visitation.
In order to establish paternity, the court may order that you, the other parent, and the child take a paternity test. If you refuse to take a paternity test, the court can use your refusal to establish paternity against your interests or as evidence against you in a subsequent paternity proceeding.
How to Dispute Paternity
The ability to dispute paternity depends on whether it has been legally established. If paternity has not been established yet, either you or the other parent can request a paternity test to determine the identity of the child’s biological father. When you file for a paternity suit, you may request that the court order a paternity test at the beginning of trial.
If you are served with a Summons and Complaint Regarding Parental Obligations, you have 30 days to respond and undergo a paternity test. If you do not respond within 30 days, the court may use your failure to respond to establish you as the legal parent without a paternity test. If the test results are negative, the paternity case may be dismissed. If the test results are positive, you may ask for another test, but you must pay for each additional test.
If you are served with a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship, you have 30 days to respond. If you do not respond within 30 days, the court may establish the legal relationship requested in the petition without a paternity test.
When Parents Sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity
If you or the other parent has a change of heart after signing the Declaration of Paternity, you must file a Declaration of Paternity Rescission. This declaration will cancel the Declaration of Paternity. If you wish to rescind your parentage, you have 60 days from when you or the other parent signed the Declaration of Paternity to file a rescission, whichever signature is later. The Declaration of Paternity Rescission only requires your signature, but the other parent must be notified by certified mail.
You also have the option of going to court to cancel the Declaration of Paternity. However, if you elect to go to court, you must show the court a good reason for rescinding the Declaration of Paternity. The court will not allow you to rescind the Declaration of Paternity if it would be detrimental to the best interest of the child.
When Paternity is Established by Court Order
If a court order establishes you or the other parent as the child’s legal parent, it is often too late to dispute paternity. There are few exceptions to this rule and an experienced paternity attorney may be able to advise you on how you may dispute it.
For example, if you and the other parent are married when the child is born, there is a “conclusive presumption” that you and the other parent are the legal parents of the child. This presumption cannot be disproven, even with evidence. But an experienced paternity attorney may be able to help you dispute this presumption.
Your Wallin & Klarich family law attorney can make a motion for a paternity test to establish paternity. If the paternity test results show that you are not the father of the child, then you will not be the legal parent of the child. This motion for a paternity test must be filed within two years after the child is born.
Wallin & Klarich Paternity Attorney
Establishing parentage is a complicated legal process. If you wish to commence paternity proceedings, you need an experienced family law attorney to guide you and advise you on the best course of action to help you establish paternity.
The skilled paternity attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have helped many individuals successfully resolve their paternity issues for over 30 years. With offices located in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Victorville, West Covina, Sherman Oaks, Torrance and Ventura , there is a Wallin & Klarich attorney available wherever you happen to live.
Call us today at (888) 749-7428. We will get through this together.