Every case involving the rights of parents in California has the potential to be challenging and upsetting. At stake can be the relationship between a parent and child, parental obligations, as well as the right to make legal decisions for that child. Consequently, it is not unusual for parents and potential parents to be aggressive in protecting their rights.
This can certainly be the case when the paternity of a child is in question. Under California parentage laws, a child born to an unwed mother has no legal father unless and until paternity is established. This is generally true whether all parties agree on who the father is or not.
Unless and until paternity is formally established, both the mother and presumed father of the child can face some serious obstacles. To begin with, the mother will not be able to seek child support from a man who is not legally defined as the child’s father. Additionally, the presumed father will not be able to seek custody or visitation without first establishing paternity.
Once paternity has been established, discussions regarding child support and parenting time can begin. These discussions can sometimes prove frustrating, particularly if the father and mother are no longer in a relationship. One party may not want to pay support to the other and a mother may not want the child’s father involved in the child’s life.
In some circumstances establishing paternity may be advantageous to achieving your goals, however, in others it may have the opposite effect. Regardless, it is important to recognize that if paternity is not established, a mother could miss out on critical child support, a father could miss out on the opportunity to have a relationship with his child, and a child can be robbed of inheritance rights and the knowledge of his/her roots.
Even so, every case involving paternity and parental rights must be explored individually and within the context of the exact situation in which parents or presumed parents have found themselves. In order to discuss the specific options and outcomes of an individual case, it is typically best to consult an attorney.