Parentage | Paternity Lawyer
When it comes to parenting, family law courts have remained biased toward women for centuries. This reflects prejudices at the broader societal level regarding a woman’s place as in the home and a man’s place as in the workplace. Because of this, for most of that time, Orange County and Los Angeles County fathers were often content to leave parenting to mothers and focus on advancing as breadwinners.
Over the past few decades, however, as more women move into the workforce, men have also taken on more parenting responsibilities. In fact, there are families in California where mothers work outside of the home, and fathers take care of the children. There has also been an increase in nontraditional family structures.
When children join these alternative family structures through adoption or birth, existing laws may fail to make automatic provisions. Subsequently, your family may need to rely on a paternity actions lawyer to help you establish a legal, paternal connection.
What Are Paternity/Parentage Actions?
Paternity actions involve the many processes focused on establishing legal parenthood. Once established, parents enjoy not only the rights but also the responsibilities of being a parent. These might include the following:
- The right to be included in decisions related to health, education and religion
- The need to contribute financially to the expenses related to raising children
- The right to spend time with children whether through visitation rights or shared custody
- The right to full custody if the other parent passes away or the courts determine the other parent is unfit
Who Needs Paternity/Parentage Actions?
Most people have preconceived notions regarding parents’ rights and the people who seek these family law services. Some of the circumstances that bring clients to our law firm might surprise you. Most clients are men who had children with women they did not marry and who wish to gain and provide rights to their children. When it comes to same-sex couples, both men and women might need to take additional steps to secure parenting rights and privileges.
In most cases involving unmarried couples, the relationship has ended, but this is not always the case. Unmarried couples often seek paternity actions together. Establishing parenthood might have proven necessary after an employer refused to extend health benefits to the child or because a parent has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and wants to reduce or eliminate obstacles to inheritance.
Oftentimes, women might also seek out paternity actions to prove to a man that he is the father of her child. Premature birth, rumors of infidelity or insistence that they were careful to avoid pregnancy during the relationship are just some of the many reasons a father might doubt that a child is biologically his. By establishing that connection, a woman might seek to gain child support, share child custody or even repair the fractured relationship.
Finally, children might also take matters into their own hands. Minors might prompt their parents or step-parents to take action. In some cases, adult children want to prove paternity to the person they believe are their other parent in hopes of reconciliation.
How Do You Take Paternity/Parentage Actions?
The specific route our Orange County and Los Angeles County paternity actions lawyer recommends or takes on your behalf depends on your role in the suit, such as whether you are the child, mother, father or represent the state. The route you take might also depend on your specific situation and even your preference. Here are the three most common options in California.
1. Sign a Voluntary Declaration
If both parents are in agreement, then the easiest route might involve signing a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage or Paternity. According to the California Courts, parents can do this at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth or anytime after the fact.
If not signed at a hospital or other designated area, then a notary needs to serve as a witness. The parents can then file this in court. It holds so well that even if the parent later discovers they are not the biological parent and wishes to undo the parental ties, it is extremely difficult to accomplish.
2. Involve the DCSS
The Department of Child Support Services has one primary goal: to ensure that every eligible child receives the child support money due to them. Unfortunately, when there is no other parent named, a child may have no right to child support from a second parent.
Subsequently, the DCSS is often eager to help other presumed parents establish parentage to provide better financial assistance to children. Parents can consider this option even if they are both in agreement.
3. File a Paternity/Parentage Action
In the first two options, some people retain a paternity lawyer, but it is often possible to use local resources available. When it comes to filing a suit, however, a family law attorney becomes necessary. This is especially the case if a parent does not wish to share parental rights or if someone else insists that they are the parent of the child. Here is what you can expect in the process:
- The necessary court documents will be filed with you as the petitioner with the help of your attorney.
- A Financial Statement or an Income and Expense Declaration will be prepared if you want to initiate a child support order.
- Your attorney will file all the necessary documents with the court and and also provide you with advice throughout the duration of the case.
- The other parent will be served and will have 30 days to respond.
A person can submit DNA evidence as proof of parentage or request a DNA test.
What Is the Best Way To Get Started?
It is always best to begin the process by speaking with a paternity lawyer. The more complex your case is, the more important it is to find the right fit. At the Law Office of Stacy L. Campuzano, we have been serving California families since 1996 and look forward to serving you. Contact our attorney for more information today.