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Establishing parental identity in California

If a couple is married at the time of the birth of their child, then the child's parentage is automatically established. According to U.S. law, the husband of the mother is presumed to be the father.

However, in cases where the child is born to unmarried parents, the child's parents, particularly his or her father, needs to be established legally. After January 1, 2005, if a child's parents are domestic partners registered in California, then they are assumed to be the child's parents. The law is relatively new so issues are still coming to light, so same-sex domestic partners should consider legal advice when establishing parentage.

Partners should obtain a court order or sign an official Declaration of Paternity that identifies the child's parents. If a child was born before marriage of the parents, then paternity must be established. Even if a man proves that he is the biological father, he still needs to establish paternity legally.

Establishing paternity is important before child support, child custody or visitation can be ordered by the court. If a parent refuses to acknowledge that he is the parent, then the court may order genetic testing for the father, mother and child.

Once parentage is established, then a parent can seek child custody legally and be provided visitation with the child. A legal non-custodial parent will also have to pay child support and be responsible for paying 50 percent of healthcare costs of the child, including insured and uninsured costs. A legal parent will also be responsible for paying 50 percent of child care costs, if the custodial parent has a job.

It is also important to establish parentage to afford the child the emotional benefit knowing who his or her parents are. An acknowledged child of unmarried parents enjoys the legal benefits of uninterrupted child support, the same as a child of married parents.

Source: California Courts, "Parentage/Paternity," Accessed on Feb.17, 2015

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