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What does California family law do about paternity issues?

It is not uncommon for there to be a dispute over paternity in California. There can be numerous reasons for this, but there are certain common denominators when straightening the matter out. If the couple was married at the time of conception, then paternity is already established as the husband has the legal presumption of fatherhood. If, however, an unmarried woman has a child, it is necessary for paternity to be established so the child's legal rights can be established.

The court cannot make a child support order without paternity. Paternity can be established in the following ways: by legal agreement, through genetic tests and by proving it in court. With a legal agreement, both parents can stipulate the paternity and arrange for child support. There can also be custody and visitation as part of the stipulation. This can be done without having to go to court, but the court will need to approve it whether there is a court appearance or not.

For genetic tests, each parent can ask for this to be done if the parents want biological proof of the paternity before naming the legal father. The local child support agency can ask for the genetic test just as the parents can. A man who is not the biological father can be excluded. It can also demonstrate with greater than 99 percent accuracy who the father is if he is tested. If there is a disagreement over paternity and there has not been a consent to have genetic testing, the court can order that it be done. A refusal can lead to a contempt of court.

To prove paternity in court with the father refusing to take part in genetic testing, the court can establish paternity by considering factors such as the relationship between the couple, money that the man has paid to support the child, if there was an admission of fatherhood, gifts and correspondence the man has sent the child, details as to the child's conception, information from other people who were aware of the relationship, and photos of the man with the child.

When there are family legal issues regarding a child's paternity, it can negatively affect everyone involved. It is essential to know who the biological father is. If there are problems with this from the perspective of the mother or the potential father, speaking to an attorney experienced in family law can help to deal with it.

Source: childsup.ca.gov, "Child Support Handbook -- Paternity -- What you need to know -- pages 14-15," accessed on June 6, 2017

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