In a parentage case, also known more commonly as a “paternity case”, the court will make an order that states who the child’s legal parents are. The law assumes that the married persons are the child’s legal parents, so parentage is automatically established in most cases for married couples. However, for unmarried parents, parentage needs to be established legally.

There are two main ways to establish parentage legally. The first consists of signing a voluntary declaration of paternity. This is a government form through the state of California, which once signed by both parents, establishes them as the legal parents of the child. For parentage to be established through this manner, both parents must sign the form voluntarily, without being forced or coerced by any other individual. The second way to establish parentage is through a court order by filing a Petition with Family Court to establish Paternity. Family Court provides parents with custodial rights.

Some of the Legal Rights and Privileges associated with Parentage are:

  • Financial support from both parents;
  • Legal documentation identifying both parents;
  • Having the names of both parents on the child’s birth certificate;
  • The child’s right to receive health and life insurance coverage from either parent;
  • The child’s right to receive inheritance from either parent; and
  • The child’s right to establish a legal relationship among siblings.

4 Things a mother should know when considering filing a paternity case:

  1. You cannot file for child support if the father of your child has not been established through parentage legally.
  2. You don’t have to wait until the child is born to start the case. You can open a case with the Department of Child Support Services while you are pregnant, and a DNA test can be ordered once the baby is born if the father denies parentage.
  3. If the father lives out of California, he can still be established as the legal parent and be ordered to pay child support.
  4. It is important to prove paternity as soon as possible, even if the father does not currently have any money to support the child. Once the father gets a job or money, if parentage is already established, then you can start receiving child support earlier.

4 Things a Father should know when considering filing a paternity case:

  1. If you are not married to the mother of your child, you are not the legal father of your child.
  2. If you are not the legal father of your child, you do not have the legal right to visitation or custody over your child.
  3. If you have established parentage legally, it is more likely that you will have the right to partake in decisions regarding your child’s education, health care or religion.
  4. If you are not established as the legal parent to your child and do not have an appropriate will, your child will most likely not receive any inheritance from you.