Filing a Paternity Case: What Steps Should I Take?

By Henry F. Lewis on November 27, 2017

Family discussing legal paperwork with babyChild support, custody, and visitation are common factors in divorces and separations. These can also figure heavily among unwed parents of a child. Sometimes a man avoids his responsibilities as a father, leaving a mother and a child to fend for themselves. A number of family law cases center around establishing paternity and making sure the biological father of a child pays child support and has legal responsibilities for the well-being of the child.

Paternity cases can be complicated and emotionally fraught. With that in mind, the attorneys at our law firm serving the greater Oakland and East Bay Area would like to cover some of the basics about paternity cases.

What Is a Paternity Case?

A paternity case is performed to help establish parentage of a child. While a man may be the biological father of a baby, he may not be the legal father until parentage is established. That is what paternity cases seek to do, using a combination of legal filings and/or genetic testing to help determine the father of a child.

Anyone who is established as the legal parent of a child is legally responsible for the financial support of that child. If parentage is not established, the court will not be able to make orders with regard to these matters.

Paternity and Child Support

When paternity is established, the father will be asked to pay child support and to assist in the health care costs of any children he has fathered. The father may also be asked to help pay for other costs of living and raising the child as these come up, such as education and clothing.

How Paternity Affects Custody and Visitation

In addition to paying child support, establishing paternity may also entitle the father of the child to partial custody and visitation rights. These legally mandated visits can be helpful for making sure the child's father is part of the child's life.

Paternity and the Well-Being of a Child

Establishing paternity helps a child have the emotional security of knowing the identity of his or her own parents. This can be crucial during early stages of childhood development as well as adolescence and adulthood.

Paternity and parentage are also important to consider for a variety of practical concerns. This includes having the names of both parents on a birth certificate or other government records, participating in a parent's health insurance benefits, and inheriting property from a parent.

Can I Establish Paternity During Pregnancy?

Yes. Pregnant women can start filing the paperwork to establish paternity/parentage during pregnancy. Local child support agencies can then help pursue the claim if the man continues to deny being the biological father/parent of the child.

Filing a Paternity Case: What Are the Steps?

In order to file a paternity case, one must first fill out the appropriate forms that may be found online at the California Courts website. Additional forms will be required if you want to ensure the father of the child pays child support. These papers must then be filed with a court clerk and served to the other parent. The court process can proceed from there. Having a lawyer assist you in this process can be very helpful, and may clear up potential misunderstandings in California paternity/parentage laws.

Learn More About Family Law Issues

For more information about paternity cases and what you can do to ensure you receive child support from the father of your children, be sure to contact an experienced family law attorney at our firm. The lawyers of Gardner & Lewis, LLP will work with you to make sure the situation you face is both fair and just.

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Oakland Office

1939 Harrison St
Ste 210
Oakland, CA 94612

More Info Directions (510) 451-4822