What Are Father’s Rights Under California Law?

Father’s rights are the legal rights fathers have regarding their involvement in their child’s life. Understanding, securing, and preserving these rights is often an important component of legal matters such as a divorce, a legal separation, or other family law cases. Fathers’ rights are becoming more important in legal discussions and situations involving child custody, visitation rights, child support, and parenting plans in California.

Understanding what father’s rights entail can make a difference in your decisions about your child’s life and how you can support them, and how you may interact with a co-parent. When you are legally recognized as a child’s father, it means you are eligible for equal parenting time and equal parental decisions if this fits your and your family’s situation.

Working with an experienced family law attorney can help you get a clear picture of your father’s rights and obligations and determine what course of action to pursue that protects your parental rights and is in your child’s best interest.

How Important Is Paternity for Father’s Rights?

Establishing paternity is central to securing your father’s rights. It allows you to petition for child custody or visitation rights. It also helps the court determine whether you need to pay child support.

When a couple has a child, the law automatically considers the husband as the father. When an unmarried couple has a child together, they need to establish who the father is on the child’s birth certificate. You can talk to a lawyer to ensure you follow the necessary steps.

If as an unwed father, you do not have your name on the child’s birth certificate, or you learn about the child’s existence later in life, you have several legal options. You can sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity and submit it to the Department of Child Support Services through the Parentage Opportunity Program. You can also file a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship through a family court and may need to take a DNA test to show that you are the biological father.

Depending on whether the biological mother agrees with or contests your paternity claim, the duration of the legal process can vary. Once you have established paternity, you have legal rights as the child’s father even without a court order.

What Rights Do Fathers in Same-Sex Relationships Have?

Due to the complexity of the law on same-sex parentage, working with an attorney familiar with this type of case is important to establish and/or protect your father’s rights. If you and your spouse are legally married and have had a child via surrogacy or adoption afterward, it can simplify how to determine paternity.

If you and your partner entered a domestic partnership before same-sex marriage recognition, it may be more challenging to establish parentage, and it usually involves at least the steps necessary for unwed heterosexual couples.

Are Fathers Eligible for Child Support in California?

In California, either parent can receive primary custody of a child, and the non-custodial parent may need to make child support payments until the child turns 18. A judge also usually grants visitation rights to the non-custodial parent.

Child support helps the custodian parent with costs associated with:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Housing
  • Healthcare
  • Education

If as the child’s father you are the primary custodian, you have the legal right to petition for child support from your co-parent.

How Can Working with a Father’s Rights Attorney Help You?

A family law attorney who has a keen understanding of father’s rights in California can help protect your parental rights during a divorce or another legal situation. A family lawyer can demonstrate how important your presence is in your child’s life and serves their best interests, a factor courts take seriously.

Working with a reputable family law attorney can help you for:

  • Establishing paternity
  • Seeking custody of your child
  • Creating a parenting plan
  • Petitioning for visitation rights and schedules
  • Requesting child support

Your attorney can also support you when you are considering whether to ask for modifications to a court order after a divorce or legal separation regarding child custody, visitation schedules, or child support. No matter what your specific needs are, a family lawyer carefully evaluates your situation and recommends a course of action that fits your goals.

Call Cutter & Lax, Attorneys at Law, today at (818) 839-2533 or use our online form to schedule an appointment with one of our father’s rights lawyers in San Fernando Valley!