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How do I establish paternity?

For fathers, one of the most important steps to take after you have a child is establishing paternity. Doing this gives you legal parental rights to the child in California. Without these legal rights, you have no say in the raising of the child. The mother has full custody and control over the child. So, it is easy to see why you would want to find out how to establish paternity as soon as possible.

To begin with, if you and the mother were married when the child was born, you already have established paternity. According to the California Court, you only need to worry about establishing paternity if you are not married to the mother when the child is born, and you can do this a few different ways.

The first is the easiest option. You and the mother can sign a voluntary declaration of paternity that states you are the father. This form is usually available at the hospital and the hospital will take care of filing it for you. You can also get this form at the child support agency, through the court, from the welfare office or at the registrar of births. Do note that you must sign the document at the agency or hospital where you get it or you must have it notarized for it to be valid.

You can also go through the child support agency and request a paternity test. This is most often the choice when the mother is uncooperative and will not voluntarily sign papers affirming the paternity.

If the other two options do not work for you, you can go to court. The court will make a ruling and usually order a paternity test. The mother is required to adhere to the ruling and ensure the child takes the test.

This information is for education. It is not legal advice.

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