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How is parentage/paternity determined in California?

by | Aug 2, 2023 | Parentage and Paternity

Parentage or paternity is the legal relationship between a child and their parents. Establishing parentage is important for both the child and the parents, as it affects their rights and responsibilities regarding custody, visitation, support, inheritance, citizenship and other matters. In California, there are different ways to establish parentage, depending on the circumstances of the case.

Voluntary declaration of paternity

If the mother and the father of the child agree that he is the biological father, they can sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form. This form can be signed at the hospital when the child is born or later on. By signing this form, both parents acknowledge that they are the legal parents of the child and that the father has the same rights and obligations as if he was married to the mother.

The Voluntary Declaration of Paternity can be canceled within 60 days of signing by either parent. After that, it can only be challenged in court for limited reasons, such as fraud, duress or mistake of fact.

Court order

If there is a dispute or doubt about who is the biological father of the child, either parent, the child, a local child support agency, an adoption agency or a surrogate can ask the court for an order on paternity.

The court can order genetic testing to determine the biological father of the child. The court can also make orders regarding custody, visitation and support as part of the parentage case.

The court can order a genetic test up to 2 years after the birth of the child. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, such as when the child was conceived through assisted reproduction or when there is a conclusive presumption that the husband is the father.

Conclusive presumption

In some cases, there is a conclusive presumption that a man is the legal father of a child. This means that no one can challenge his paternity in court.

This applies when the man was married to or in a registered domestic partnership with the mother when the child was born or conceived.

It also applies when the man attempted to marry or register a domestic partnership with the mother before or after the birth of the child and they lived together as a family. The presumption also applies when the man signed a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity and did not cancel it within 60 days, and when the man adopted or legally acknowledged the child.

Even if there is evidence that another man is the biological father of the child, these situations create a conclusive presumption that cannot be overturned by genetic testing.