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Tustin Paternity Attorney
Nearly 40% of all babies born in the United States are born to parents who aren’t married. Millennial generation parents in particular are finding that the old-fashioned ideas about what constitutes a couple don’t always fit their circumstances. Fortunately, California law, and the laws in many other states, provides the same protections to children whose parents never marry as it provides to children whose parents married and then divorced.
If the parents are married when the child is born, the law presumes that the married couple is the child’s legal parents. If the parents are not married, there are a few steps that must be taken to establish the legal parentage relationship, and in some cases, it may be necessary to establish that a child has more than two legal parents, as the way in which a legal parent is defined can be complex and very fact specific.
Often parents sign a voluntary declaration of paternity through the Paternity Opportunity Program at the birth of their child. This is commonly referred to as a “POP Declaration” and the Court may use this declaration to establish the legal parentage relationship.
The first step in these cases is to establish what in family law is called “parentage” and sometimes called “paternity.” This simply means that it must be settled that the two adults before the court are the parents of the child in question.
Establishing parentage is important because if the parents of a child were not married when the child was born, then the father does not have any legal rights or responsibilities for the child and the court cannot order child support, custody, or visitation until parentage has been established. If the father does not agree that he is the father of the child, the court may order genetic testing to determine parentage.
If two members of a same-sex couple were not married when the child was born, they will likely also have to establish parentage. If two unmarried women agree to co-parent a child that one of the women gave birth to, the woman who did not give birth to the child will have to ask the court for an order establishing her parental rights. Similarly, if two unmarried men intend to adopt and raise a child together, they will both need to have parentage established by the court.
The rights associated with established paternity/parentage include:
- Court-ordered parentage schedules
- Influence on move-away orders
- Custody claims
Establishing parentage also helps protect the child for many years to come. Even beyond issues of child support and visitation, children can benefit from earnings, social security, health care coverage, veteran’s benefits, and intestate rights to inherit from the estate of someone who the court recognizes as their parent.
These issues can be very tricky and there are timelines and deadlines involved that are important not to miss. Contact us today so that we can help you protect your interests and the interests of any children involved.