If I Fathered A Child But Did Not Marry My Child's Mother, What Are My Legal Rights?
If you did not marry your child’s mother, your rights regarding custody and visitation in California would need to be established through the filing of a paternity case.
What does Paternity Mean?
Paternity means who is the father of a child. Establishing paternity refers to the legal process of determining the biological father of a child where the parents are not married. While paternity is generally legally presumed for married couples, it is not automatic for unmarried persons.
The establishment of paternity and a parental relationship is important for the father to have legal rights (custody and visitation) and legal responsibilities (child support) concerning his child. Establishing paternity is the first step in the legal process before any court can make any orders concerning custody, visitation and child support, and can be done by either signing a “Declaration of Paternity” form or filing a “Petition to Establish Parental Relationship” in Family Court.
What is a Declaration of Paternity?
It is a legal form signed by both parents that states that the man is in fact the legal father. A Declaration of Paternity form can be obtained at the hospital when the child is born, or either from the Family Court or your county recorder’s office. However, it does not create any court orders concerning custody, visitation or child support, which requires going to court.
Can I cancel the Declaration of Paternity If I Later Believe that I May Not Be The Father?
Yes. Either parent can cancel the Declaration of Paternity by completing and filing a “Rescission of Paternity” from with the California Department of Social Services within 60 days from the date that the Declaration of Paternity was filed.
What are the Benefits of Establishing Paternity?
For the father, establishing paternity in turn establishes his legal parental rights and right to seek custody and/or visitation, allows his name to be added to the child’s birth certificate, and assures that Social Security or Veteran’s benefits are paid to his child even in the event of the father’s disability or death.
For the mother, it can allow for the sharing of the financial responsibilities of parenthood, including entitlement to child support, reimbursement for birth costs, reimbursement of one-half of the sharing of the child’s medical and dental expense.
Finally, for the child, having both parents actively involved in his or her life and receiving emotional and financial support and love from both parents is in the child’s best interests and increases the chances of a better future for the child.
For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact Orange County divorce attorney Gerald Maggio of The Maggio Law Firm, by visiting www.maggiolawfirm.com or calling (949) 553-0304.
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