Establishing paternity—the father of a child—is increasingly necessary in today’s non-traditional family structures. People who have not been touched by this issue might be surprised to know that it is not simply a matter of DNA testing.
When a child is born to a married couple who reside together, the law presumes that the husband is the father. More and more often, however, children are born to couples who are not married. When this happens, a determination must be made as to the father of the child.
Medical care providers are required to provide information to the mother of the child regarding a “voluntary declaration of paternity.” If the mother and the father sign a voluntary declaration, the father will be listed on the birth certificate and will have paternal rights and responsibilities under state law. There is no test required to prove that the father is biologically related to the child.
When no one steps forward to acknowledge paternity, a superior court can make the determination. This typically happens when the biological father does not know of his parentage or wants to avoid involvement with the child. A paternity action can be initiated in court by 1) the child’s mother, 2) the man claiming or denying paternity, 3) a child support agency, or 4) an adoption agency. In this situation, DNA testing is normally used to resolve the conflict.
The reasons for establishing paternity are several. Foremost is the need for financial support for the child. It is also in the State of California’s interest to see that both parents support their child. Otherwise, public assistance may be necessary to support the child. Appropriately, and as noted above, the state child support agency can therefore bring an action to establish paternity.
Another reason for establishing the identity of the father is for health care purposes. Eligibility for health insurance is an important benefit for children. A court can order health care coverage as appropriate once paternity is established. Genetic health information is also important for the child’s wellbeing throughout his life. Many health care decisions are impacted by genetic predispositions inherited from one’s parents.
The emotional and social development of a child can also be positively affected by a child having a father in his life. Even though the father may not live in the home, appropriate visitation arrangements can be made that will support the parent and child relationship. Even if the relationship is minimal, children are better off emotionally and socially knowing the identity of their fathers.
The attorneys at The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in family law, including paternity matters. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can help you proceed through the divorce process while protecting your rights or those of loved ones: (415) 298-8314.