In today’s society, it’s becoming more common and socially
acceptable for couples (and non-couples) to have children outside the
institution of marriage. Why is this? There are many reasons...A couple
may be children of
divorce and they may never want to get married. A woman may become pregnant after
reuniting with an old flame on a social media site, only for both individuals
to feel they made a mistake.
A woman may be a victim of
domestic violence and she may leave the father of her child without telling him she’s
pregnant. A woman may become pregnant after a casual encounter, or a short
period of dating and she may want to raise the baby, but have zero interest
in the father.
A married man may impregnate another woman (not his wife), but he’ll
still love his wife and have no intention of marrying the other woman.
Truly, the possibilities are endless when it comes to children born out
of wedlock. So, this brings us to the issue of an unmarried father’s
rights to his child.
A Single Father’s Rights Are Not Automatic
If for whatever reason a child is born to unmarried parents, the
father has zero rights or responsibilities to his child until
paternity is legally established. It doesn’t matter if he’s 100% certain
he is the biological father, he cannot invoke his parental rights until
paternity is established. “But how is paternity established?”
There are two ways that
paternity is established in California: 1) the presumed father signs a voluntary
Declaration of Paternity form, or 2) by having a DNA test performed. If there is any question about
paternity, the mother or presumed father have the right to ask the family
court for genetic (DNA) testing.
Once paternity is confirmed:
- The father’s name can be on the child’s birth certificate.
The court can make orders for
child custody and
The court can make
child support orders.
- The child can inherit from either parent.
- The child has the right to receive Social Security or veteran’s benefits
if they are available.
- The child can receive health insurance from either of their parents.
To learn more about an unmarried father’s rights and responsibilities
after paternity is established,
contact Cleary & Hammond, LLP for a
free case evaluation.
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