Kevin Qualls Family Law
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When will California courts presume a man is a child's father?

When parents in California break-up or divorce, they both still share the responsibility to support their child financially. However, in order for this obligation to be enforceable by the court, there must be an order for support. If a parent wants to receive child support, they first must move the court to establish paternity -- called parentage-- and then move the court to issue a child support order. While a DNA test can be used to determine parentage, in some cases parentage will be presumed by the court.

California law will automatically presume that a man is the child's father under certain circumstances. For example, if he and the child's mother were married when the child was conceived or at the time of the child's birth, parentage may be presumed. This is also case if the marriage was invalid, but the couple still held out as being married and the child was either conceived or was born during this time.

If the man and the child's mother got married after the child was born, and the man agreed to either financially support the child or sign his name on the child's birth certificate, then parentage may be presumed. Similarly, if the man openly acted as the child's father and the child lived in his home, parentage may be presumed. This is known as "parentage by estoppel," meaning that if the man has always treated the child as if he were the child's father, the court may deem that he is indeed the child's father for legal purposes even if the man and the child are not biologically related.

Determining who is a child's father is important not just for child support reasons, but also so that the father can seek child custody or visitation if he wants. Fathers' rights are important, and the first step taken in such situations is to legally determine that a man is in fact the child's father.

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