Why Establishing Paternity is Critical to a Father's Rights

In this day and age, many children are born to couples who decide not to marry. Whether this has to do with the high divorce rate, cultural acceptance, or other personal beliefs, each couple has every right to decide whether or not to enter into marriage.

With so many children born out of wedlock these days, fathers' rights have fallen under scrutiny by the courts, and a father's rights to his children are addressed under state paternity and child custody laws.

The term "paternity" means to establish who the legal father of a child is. If the parents were married upon the birth of the child, the law automatically assumes that the husband is the child's father.

On the other hand, if the parents were never married, paternity must be established legally. In California, if the parents were not married by the time the child is born, the law does not consider that the child has a legal father. This only happens once paternity is legally established.

It is important to understand that even if a father is able to prove that he is the child's biological father, as long as he was never married to the child's mother, he does not have any legal rights to his child, nor does he have any legal responsibilities. In order for a father to fully enjoy the rights and responsibilities of fatherhood, paternity must be established legally.

Reasons for establishing paternity:

  • Child custody
  • Visitation
  • Child support
  • Access to the family's medical history
  • Health insurance coverage
  • The right to inherit from the father
  • The right to receive Social Security and Veteran's benefits

Purpose of Establishing Paternity

If you are a father who wishes to have a child custody or visitation order made, you must first establish paternity legally, even if you know that you are the child's biological father. On the other hand, if you are a mother who wishes to obtain a child support order, you must establish paternity before child support can be ordered by the court.

The best way to establish paternity is to get a court order with the help of an attorney. Generally, a genetic test (DNA) will be done to find out for sure if a man is the actual father of the child. This test is very simple to perform as it merely consists of swabbing the inside of the mouth with a sterile cotton swab, which resembles a Q-tip.

To learn more about paternity establishment under California law, contact Cutter & Lax to speak with a member of our legal team.