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Family law: How can establishing paternity benefit the child?

When a child is born to a married couple in California, paternity is automatically established. However, a child of an unmarried couple may be at a significant disadvantage if the name of his or her father is not registered. California family law allows unmarried parents to sign a Declaration of Paternity to establish legal fatherhood voluntarily upon the child's birth in the hospital. It may also be done after they have left the hospital.

Hospitals and clinics with facilities to handle childbirth across California and neighboring states have a partnership to help fathers create legal links with their biological children through the Paternity Opportunity Program. The program started in 1995 and now also includes some county welfare offices, prenatal clinics, vital records offices and courts. Failing to register paternity in this way leaves only DNA testing as an alternative method to establish legal fatherhood.

When unmarried parents sign the Declaration of Paternity, their children will have the same privileges and rights as those of a child who is born to married parents. These rights may include the financial support of both parents along with access to the medical benefits of the noncustodial parent. Furthermore, a child who knows the identities of both his or her parents can benefit emotionally. Also, the availability of access to medical records of both sides of the family may prove critical in certain circumstances.

An unmarried mother or father in California who has questions about establishing paternity can get the necessary answers from an experienced family law attorney. A lawyer can explain the applicable laws and suggest the most appropriate way to proceed. If signing the Declaration of Paternity is no longer an option, the lawyer can provide support and guidance with obtaining DNA proof of fatherhood, or petition the court to order such tests.

Source:, "Paternity means fatherhood", Accessed on Oct. 20, 2017

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