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Establishing Parentage (Paternity) in California

Establishing parentage (paternity) is an important legal process in California that determines the biological father of a child born to unmarried parents. This process is crucial for ensuring that both parents have legal rights and responsibilities towards the child, including custody, visitation, child support, and inheritance rights.

In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide to establishing parentage in California, including the reasons for establishing parentage, the methods of establishing parentage, and how to dispute parentage. Whether you are a father seeking to establish your parental rights or a mother seeking to secure support for your child, understanding the process of establishing parentage in California is essential.

What Does It Mean To Establish Parentage In California?

Establishing parentage (paternity) in California means legally determining who the father of a child is. It is the legal process of identifying the biological father of a child born to unmarried parents. Once parentage is established, the father has legal rights and obligations towards the child.

Reasons For Establishing Parentage Of A Child

Establishing parentage is crucial for a child’s well-being and for ensuring that both parents have legal rights and responsibilities towards the child. Some reasons for establishing parentage include:

  • Ensuring that the child has access to healthcare, insurance, and inheritance rights.
  • Establishing custody and visitation rights for the non-custodial parent.
  • Determining child support obligations for the non-custodial parent.
  • Allowing the child to benefit from the father’s social security and veteran’s benefits.

What Are Presumed Parents?

In California, there are several situations where the law presumes that a man is the father of a child. These include:

  • The man was married to the child’s mother when the child was born.
  • The man attempted to marry the child’s mother before or after the child was born.
  • The man welcomed the child into his home and treated the child as his own.
  • The man signed a voluntary declaration of paternity.
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How Is Parentage Established In California?

Parentage can be established in California through several methods, including:

  • Voluntary Declaration of Paternity: If the mother and the presumed father agree that he is the biological father of the child, they can sign a voluntary declaration of paternity. This document can be signed at the hospital when the child is born or later on.
  • Genetic Testing: Genetic testing can determine whether a man is the biological father of a child. This can be done through a court-ordered test or by agreement between the parties.
  • Court Order: If the presumed father disputes paternity, a court can order genetic testing or rely on other evidence to determine paternity.

Can You Dispute Parentage?

A presumed father or a biological father can dispute parentage in California. This can be done through genetic testing. Genetic (DNA) testing, is performed by comparing DNA coding from the mother, father, and child. Generally, the Department of Child Support Services covers the testing costs, court-ordered tests may incur fees, and the court only accepts testing from authorized facilities. If a presumed father wishes to dispute paternity, he must do so within a certain timeframe, depending on the circumstances. It is always best to contact a California parentage lawyer to get the best advice on your unique situation.


Establishing parentage is an important legal process that ensures that both parents have legal rights and responsibilities towards the child. It can be done through a voluntary declaration of paternity, genetic testing, or a court order. If you have questions about establishing parentage or wish to dispute paternity, consult with a family law attorney for guidance.

Modern Family Law

Modern Family Law’s team of experienced family lawyers takes a compassionate approach to the practice of family law. Using innovative technology to create an effective and efficient process for our clientele, our attorneys approach each case as a collective effort to find the best long-term solutions for each family. We understand the financial burden a divorce can have on an individual. As such we have created our industry-first SimpleStart™ program, providing people a chance to reduce the amount of money needed upfront to start their case. For more information please give us a call or fill out a short form online to sign up for a free consultation today! Let us make a positive difference in your life.

By: MFL Team

Posted May 09, 2023

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