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Paternity and Child Support
Establishing paternity, or determining a parent child relationship, is legally necessary in order to collect child support. If a child’s parents were not married to each other when the child was born, the law does not recognize the father unless paternity is legally established by a court order. Establishing paternity will give your child the same rights and benefits as children born to married parents. Unmarried parents can establish paternity by signing the voluntary Declaration of Paternity. This can be done in the hospital after the child is born. A Declaration of Paternity may also be signed by parents either before or after they leave the hospital (Wikipedia). The federal government provides a payment to the hospital for each Declaration of Paternity signed. The signed Declaration of Paternity has the effect of a legally binding Judgment of Paternity.
An acknowledged father is a biological father of a child born to unmarried parents, for whom paternity has been established by either the admission of the father or the agreement of the parents. An acknowledged father must pay child support. An unmarried man who impregnates a woman is often referred to as an alleged father until there has been a finding of paternity. An alleged or unwed father will be required to pay child support if a court determines or he acknowledges that he is the father; in addition, an alleged or unwed father has the right to visitation with his child and may seek custody (Babycenter.com).
If parents are registered domestic partners when a child is born, the law assumes that the domestic partners are parents. However, 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. When people who are not married cannot agree about parentage, the Court can order genetic testing. Usually a child’s parentage must be established before you can get child support or custody and visitation orders. You can ask the Judge for child support or custody and visitation as part of a case that establishes the parentage of a child (Nolo.com).
Can I get child support if I am not sure who the father of my child is?
No. Paternity must be established before child support can be ordered. Paternity gives your child many rights, including child support, access to medical records, government benefits and more. However, you can get CalWORKS without paternity (Nolo.com).
What if the father leaves the state before it is proven that he is the father?
The local court may use information they have to decide paternity without him. If paternity is established without the alleged father’s cooperation, the court may order him to pay child support no matter where he lives, even if he is out of California (Babycenter.com). Once service has been achieved on the alleged father the Court will likely have jurisdiction over the alleged father, particularly if the child was conceived in the state of California.
The man does not have any money or a job to support our child. Why should I bother proving that he is the father?
If you do not establish paternity, your child will not be able to get child support or health insurance even after the alleged father gets a job. Proving he is the father as soon as possible makes collecting child support easier later on (Nolo.com). Once a child support order is in place the local Department of Child Support Services, if involved in enforcing the order should be alerted of the child support obligor’s new employment once the obligor begins to show up on the new employer’s payroll tax records.
Can I start my case while I am pregnant, before my baby is born?
You may start the paperwork to establish paternity when you are pregnant. The local child support agency can only open and pursue the case after the child is born. If the man you believe is the father denies that he is the father, a genetic test can be ordered after your baby is born. (Some labs will only perform genetic tests after a child is six months of age or older). Genetic tests can be scheduled through the local child support agency (Nolo.com).
Can paternity be established for my child if the father lives in another state?
Yes. The local child support agency will ask for a genetic test from the court in the other state. Also, a man can sign a Declaration of Paternity voluntarily declaring he is the child’s father even if he lives in another state (Nolo.com).
For more information, please contact The Law Office of Matthew J. Rudy for a free 1 hour consultation.