In modern times, there is no reason to wonder long about the paternity of a child. Since the advent of DNA testing, paternity can usually be established with a high degree of certainty in the event of a dispute. Establishing paternity is critically important, because it determines not only whether any form of custody will be granted to the putative father, but it also determines child support obligations. It is important, however, to know what California law says about paternity testing.
Marriage and the Presumption of Paternity
If a child is born in wedlock, California law presumes that the mother’s husband is the biological father. If the couple divorces while the child is still a minor, the husband could be assessed with child support obligations even if he is not the child’s biological father. This might sound outrageously unfair when applied to a situation where the child is the product of an adulterous affair.
All is not lost if the mother’s husband is not the father, however. This is because the word “presumes” leaves a legal loophole whereby paternity can be attributed to the actual biological father if, and only if, the mother’s husband can prove that he is not the biological father of the child. Normally, a court-ordered paternity test is required. Until then, child support obligations will continue to be assessed against the mother’s husband.
When an unwed mother gives birth, there is no presumption one way or the other concerning the identity of the child’s biological father. A simple way to establish paternity, however, is to execute a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. Both the mother and the putative father must sign this document for it to be valid.
If a dispute arises concerning the identity of the father, even a paternity test by itself will not establish the identity of the father for legal purposes – a court order is required. A court can order a paternity test to be carried out by a laboratory that is recognized as reputable by the court, and the result can be sealed so that any tampering can be easily detected.
The Role of the Local Child Support Agency (LCSA)
Your local LCSA can open a paternity case on behalf of the child, and either the mother or the putative father can initiate such an action. If you request Cal-Works or Medi-Cal on behalf of your child, the LCSA will automatically commence an action on its own initiative. LCSA lawyers do not represent either the mother or the putative father, and you will be able to retain your own lawyer even after the LCSA initiates a paternity action.
The Stakes Are Too High for You to Hesitate
Mistaken paternity determinations can have far-reaching effects, not only on the putative father but on the biological father and the child as well. This is something you have got to get right. At CKB Vienna LLP, we know how to work with the system to maximize your chances of a fair determination.