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Throughout Del Mar and San Diego County, many parents are unmarried at the time of conception or birth of a child. In order to establish parental rights, the parties must open a paternity case in the appropriate San Diego Family Court. Paternity cases can be complex and fraught with emotion, it is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney regarding your paternity action.

Under California Family Code section 7570, “there is a compelling state interest in establishing paternity for all children.” This is because “establishing paternity is the first step toward a child support award.” Paternity will also be the basis for child custody and visitation orders. Additionally, the legislature states that a conclusive determination of the father and mother for a child can be beneficial for the purpose of medical diagnosis, health insurance, social security, military benefits and inheritance rights. Finally, the code states, “knowing one’s father is important to a child’s development.” When confronted with a paternity action, family court judges will have these interests in mind.

California has established a procedure for establishment of voluntary paternity. This system results in an increase in the ease of establishing paternity and an increase in paternity establishment in general. With increased paternity establishment, more children will have access to child support and other benefits. A voluntary process will save the both the parties and the court time and money. Under California Family Code section 7571, at the birth of a child to an unmarried mother, the man identified by the mother as the father will have the opportunity to complete a voluntary declaration of paternity. Once both parties have signed the declaration in the presence of hospital witnesses, hospital staff will forward it to the Department of Child Support Services within twenty days of the date the declaration was signed. Generally, a completed voluntary declaration of paternity that has been properly filed shall establish paternity of a child and have the same force and effect as a paternity judgment.

Paternity actions can become complicated if a man who signed a voluntary declaration of paternity discovers that he is not in fact the natural father of the child. In deciding whether to set aside the declaration, the court will consider the best interest of the child. As we have previously blogged, even if the court determines a man is not the natural father, he still may be deemed the legal father and be ordered to pay child support.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.