Recently I wrote about how DNA testing may affect the traditional concepts of Fatherhood. What about establishing Parentage (Paternity)? Establishing Parentage means that you are declaring who the legal parents of a child are if the parents were not married when the child was born.
If the parents were married when the child was born, the law usually presumes the husband to be the father.
After January 1, 2005, if parents are registered domestic partners when a child is born, the law assumes that the domestic partners are parents. However, since this law is new and unsettled, same sex parents should get legal advice to make sure that the parentage is clear.
Parents who are not married when a child is born can sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity before they leave the hospital, or after, which automatically declares Dad as the father, which means the court automatically can make orders for custody and visitation if the Declaration of Paternity is signed.
The legislature (7570) declares the following:
"(a) There is a compelling state interest in establishing paternity for all children. Establishing paternity is the first step toward a child support award, which, in turn, provides children with equal rights and access to benefits, including, but not limited to, social security, health insurance, survivors' benefits, military benefits, and inheritance rights. Knowledge of family medical history is often necessary for correct medical diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, knowing one's father is important to a child's development."
When both unmarried parents sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity , it means they are the legal parents of the child. You have the choice of whether or not to sign the Declaration of Paternity, but once you do, you are recognized as the legal parent. As stated above, if parents are unmarried, paternity establishment is not automatic and the process should be started by both parents as soon as possible for the benefit of the child.
If you sign the declaration at the hospital, your name will go on the child's birth certificate, and the mother does not need to go to court to prove that you are the father of the child. If the declaration is signed after the child's birth certificate has been issued, a new birth certificate can be issued with the father's name.
If you are considering signing a voluntary declaration of parentage it's important to know that once paternity or parentage has been established, it can be difficult or impossible to undo - even if DNA testing later shows that the father is not the biological father of the child.
After parentage is established, each parent has:
- An equal responsibility to support the child, and
- An equal right to custody of the child.
The signing of a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity can have long term implications in your life. Before you sign one, consult with a lawyer to protect your rights.