Paternity is the legal recognition of a man’s parentage over a child. While paternity is presumed and recognized when a woman gives birth and is married to a man, other circumstances can lead to questions about the identity of a child’s biological father. This post will examine 3 situations in which paternity can play an important role in for both California fathers and children. No part of this post provides its readers with legal advice and questions about paternity should be directed to family law attorneys.
1. Paternity as a method of securing custodial rights
Paternity may not seem to be an important issue when two San Francisco parents are in a happy relationship. Regardless of their marital status, parents who live and work together to raise their children may not feel a compulsion to formalize the legal relationship between the children and their presumptive father. However, if that couple ever broke up, paternity could become an issue with regard to custody and visitation.
Generally, a man must be legally recognized as a child’s father to have custodial rights over the child. Unmarried fathers can be identified on children’s birth certificates at the time of their births if the children’s mothers choose to do so; if they do not, fathers may have to prove that they have rights to be with their kids. Proving paternity can involve genetic testing to demonstrate the biological connection between a man and a child.
2. Paternity as a method of securing child support
Like child custody, child support is an obligation based on a person’s parentage over a child. If a man is not recognized legally as a child’s father, it may be difficult for the child and their other parent to pursue child support payments from him. In some situations, a mother may act on behalf of her child to compel a man to take a paternity test to prove that he fathered her child. Once that connection is established, she may petition for him to provide child support to care for their shared child.
3. Paternity as a method of ensuring inheritance
Estate planning is an area of law indirectly connected to family law. When a person dies without a will or estate plan, their end-of-life estate generally goes to their closely related family members. That often includes the decedent’s kids who are alive at the time of the decedent’s passing.
In order for a child to inherit from their presumptive father in such a situation, they may need to be proven as an heir. Paternity testing can help families establish these important biological and legal connections so that rightful beneficiaries are identified and receive inheritances from their biological parents.
Paternity can be a complicated area of the law. When a person is pulled into a paternity matter, they can benefit from strong legal representation. Attorneys who work in the family law field are positioned well to advise and guide their clients through the sometimes difficult matters related to paternity.