What is a Paternity Action

The term “paternity” translates to “the state of being a father.” When the parents of a newborn were married at the time of the child’s birth, there is a presumption that the husband is the father of the child unless the parentage is challenged in the first two years of the child’s life. In contrast, when an unmarried couple has a child, the process of establishing paternity can be more challenging. Nevertheless, it is essential for the father’s paternity to be established. Why? Because establishing paternity is an overall net positive for the child, the mother, and the father. The benefits of establishing parentage include:

  • Access to family medical records and history
  • Health and life insurance coverage available to the child of both parents
  • The child’s right to inherit from both parents
  • The right to receive social security and veteran’s benefits, if available
  • The father is able to sign legal documents on behalf of the child

If you are looking to file a paternity action in California, an important question often arises, “where do I begin the process?” Well, in California, a paternity action needs to be filed under the Uniform Parentage Act. The objective of a paternity action is to establish whether someone is the natural parent of a child. If parentage is established, a California court can then address issues concerning custody, child support, and so forth. Please be advised that a paternity action brought under the California Uniform Parentage Act needs to be filed in the county in which the mother, father, OR child resides.

Establishing Paternity

There are multiple ways to establish paternity in California when a man and a woman have a child and are not married. The simplest way is to sign a Declaration of Paternity. When this government document is signed by both parents, it establishes the man and the woman as the child’s legal parents. Please be advised that this form must be signed voluntarily.

Another avenue for establishing paternity is obtaining a court order. In order to obtain a court order, you must first file a Petition for Custody and Visitation. Once this petition is filed, a California court will take steps to determine who the legal parents are, including the issuance of an order for DNA testing of the man, woman, and child.

In order to establish paternity, a common question that arises is, “how much is a paternity test?” The answer is it depends. If you decide to purchase a home DNA paternity test, the out-of-pocket cost will typically be somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 to $200. A legal DNA paternity test with results that are validated and can be admitted in a court of law is more expensive, typically between $300 and $500.

Another common question that arises when it comes to establishing paternity is, “how long does a father have to establish paternity?” Under California law, there is no specific statute of limitations for a father to try and establish paternity. Though, when there is doubt about a child’s parentage, a California court would consider ordering a DNA test to establish paternity up to two years following the birth of the child.

Paternity Actions and Domestic Violence

If a paternity action is active, but there are reports of domestic violence, the protection of the mother and child is paramount and will take priority. In California, the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (DVPA) is the governing law when it comes to addressing matters related to domestic violence. In addition, the DPVA authorizes courts to issue injunctions against domestic violence, including:

  • Prohibiting contact between the alleged abuser and their minor child
  • Allowing a minor child to reside at the family residence under the other parent’s custody
  • Excluding the alleged abuser from living at the family residence
  • Prohibiting the use or possession of firearms

Paternity Actions and Restraining Orders

In addition to the authority vested in California courts by the DVPA, individuals being subjected to domestic violence have the option to seek a restraining order against the alleged abuser, even when the alleged abuser has filed a paternity action. In California, a restraining order can be obtained, on a temporary basis, without having to provide notice to the alleged abuser simply by filing a request for a “Temporary Restraining Order” with a California family court. If the court issues the temporary order, it will set a hearing within approximately 21 days to determine whether the restraining order should remain active and in effect.

Need a family law attorney for a paternity case? Call Castro Law

If you are looking to establish parentage or want to contest parentage in California, Castro Law Offices is ready and able to help. Castro Law Offices is a premier California law firm specializing in paternity issues, divorce, child custody, and all other issues concerning domestic relations. We are based in Novato, California, but can provide top-notch legal services and advice to clients in and around Marin County, including Novato, San Rafael, Greenbrae, San Anselmo, Fairfax, Sausalito, Larkspur, West Marin, Ross, Mill Valley, and Corte Madera. Contact Castro Law Offices today to schedule a confidential consultation.

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