For many couples, having children is one of the happiest times of their lives. But when an unmarried couple conceives a child, or when a man discovers he may not be the biological father of a child, they may require a paternity action to establish/disestablish custody, child support, and visitation. As a law firm that focuses on family law and father’s rights, we’re often asked these questions when it comes to California paternity matters.

Q: What should I do if I think I conceived a child with a married woman?

A: When a married couple has a child, the husband is presumed to be the father of that child. If you believe you’re the biological parent of a child, however, you can bring a proceeding in the family court to establish paternity, within the time period specified by law. If you cannot establish that you are the parent within that time period, the child will legally be a child of the marriage.  If you are able to prove paternity (usually through a DNA test), you can ask for your name to appear on the child’s birth certificate. You’re also entitled to request custody or visitation with your child.

Q:  A woman says that I’m the father of her child, but I’m not sure if I’m the dad. What should I do?

A:  Paternity must be established by a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity or by a DNA test. You may accept or deny paternity after the test results are admitted to court. Keep in mind, if you sign the child’s birth certificate or paternity agreement, you will be responsible for child support.

Q: How is a DNA test administered?

A: Typically, DNA tests are performed by either testing blood cells or cheek cells to establish paternity. DNA tests must be administered by a laboratory that’s nationally accredited by the American Society of Histology (ASH), American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), and/or College of American Pathologist s (CAP). The results of the test will either show 0% (you aren’t the father) or more than 99% proof of your paternity. Most courts acknowledge 99% as proof of paternity.

Q: I’m beginning to wonder if I’m actually the biological father of my child. I’ve already acknowledged paternity. What should I do?

A: If you have reason to believe you aren’t the biological father of your child, you have the right start proceedings to disestablish your paternal obligations, within the time period specified by law. This is regardless of whether or not your paternity is assumed or acknowledged.

Q:  What happens when I enter into a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?    

A: In addition to agreeing you’re the father of the child, both you and the child’s mother are responsible for providing financial support for the child until he or she is 19 years old.  By law, you only have 2 years from date of signature to set aside a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity, should you find reason to disestablish your paternity.

Q:  Does signing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity mean that I’ll have child custody or visitation rights?

A:  No. This agreement only says that you are the father of the child. However, it does give you the right to establish child custody or visitation. If you and the mother aren’t able to agree on a co-parenting plan—which includes child custody, visitation, etc.—then the court will determine these details while taking the child’s best interests into consideration.