Does Paternity Always Confer Parenthood?

California law intends to provide children with the best possible circumstances to grow up. Underlying this intention are several assumptions, including a belief that a stable nuclear family is preferable whenever possible. 

This assumption is why the state’s parenthood laws are so strict. If no father is listed on the child’s birth certificate, paternity actions identifying someone as a child’s genetic father will grant that person parenthood. However, matters become more complex if a father is already on record. Here’s what you need to know about how paternity and parenthood are connected in California and how to protect or pursue parental rights under state law.

California Paternity Laws and Parenthood Rights

In California, parents have rights and responsibilities toward their children under law. They have the right to raise and spend time with their children unless this would put them at risk. They are also responsible for contributing to their children’s upbringing, which includes paying child support if necessary. If a parent is not legally acknowledged, they lose time with the kids, and the kids lose emotional and financial support.

There are several ways a person may be granted parental rights and responsibilities for a kid, including:

  • Marriage to the child’s mother at the time of the baby’s birth. If two people are married or in a domestic partnership, the law automatically assumes that the mother’s spouse is the child’s other parent, regardless of gender.
  • Voluntary acceptance at the baby’s birth. Unmarried parents may claim parental rights by signing an official declaration of parentage. 
  • Adoption: A step-parent can adopt their spouse’s children to gain full parental rights over them if no second parent is living or the second parent agrees to cede their parental status. 
  • A paternity action to establish parentage. If someone does not admit they are the child’s other parent or the custodial parent does not want to acknowledge the other party, they may need to file an action determining paternity in California.

A child may have one to three legal parents depending on the circumstances. They may have just one if their mother is unmarried and no declaration of parentage is filed. In contrast, if a couple is married, but one spouse is not the father, the person outside of the marriage could be recognized as a third legal parent in a paternity action. 

Get Help With Complex Parental Rights Matters

Paternity is a complicated part of family law that is best managed with expert legal help. If you are considering filing a paternity action or have questions about parental rights, get in touch with the skilled attorneys at the Viola Law Firm, P.C. We will work with you to resolve even the most complex California parental rights disputes with your child’s best interests in mind.

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