Bay Area Dads: 5 Reasons You Need to Establish Paternity of Your Child

Brad and Samantha have been together for three years. Last month, she gave birth to a daughter, Tatum, who has her dad’s eyes and her mom’s infectious smile. Brad loves being a father, but the fact that he and Samantha are not married presents some complications for his legal relationship with his daughter.

When a child’s parents are not married, California law automatically grants custody to the mother. Fathers like Brad must establish paternity before they can enforce their parental rights and bestow important benefits on their children. If you are an unmarried father, here are five reasons why you need to establish paternity of your child or children.

  1. The Child Enjoys Certain Legal Benefits

Establishing paternity ensures that a child can receive benefits from both parents. If Tatum does not have Brad’s name listed on her birth certificate, she is not automatically entitled to inherit from him (unless she is a designated beneficiary in his Will) or receive benefits like health coverage, life insurance, or Social Security (if Brad becomes disabled). If Brad and Samantha break up while Tatum is still a minor, it can be more difficult to compel him to pay child support.

  1. You Gain Custody and Visitation Rights

Once Brad establishes paternity, he can seek custody and visitation if he and Samantha decide to go their separate ways. Otherwise, he would have no legal right to maintain a relationship with Tatum after the separation.

  1. The Child’s Medical History Will Be Better Understood

Genetics play a significant role in a person’s health, including the medical conditions that they may be susceptible to. Knowing Brad’s medical history enables doctors to test Tatum for any conditions that she may have inherited. If she ever needs an organ transplant or blood transfusion, having her father’s details on record make it easier to find a matching donor.

  1. You Are Entitled to Information About the Child

As Tatum’s legal father, Brad will have the right to be notified about any proceedings involving his daughter. These include but are not limited to:

  • Adoption proceedings
  • Custody hearings
  • Juvenile court proceedings

He will also have the right to access Tatum’s medical and school records and other documentation that provides important information about her life.

  1. Your Child Will Know Who His or Her Father Is

Establishing paternity initiates and then sustains a healthy father-child relationship. Studies have shown that a father who actively participates in his child’s life has a strong impact on that child’s emotional and mental well-being as well as their ability to perform well in school.

How to Establish Paternity

In California, the easiest way to confirm parentage is to sign a voluntary declaration of paternity (VDOP). You and the child’s mother can sign the declaration at the hospital after the baby is born, which allows your name to be included on the birth certificate. 

Brad and Samantha signed their declaration later at a registrar of births office: other acceptable locations include a local welfare office, child support agency, or superior court. After filing the signed form with the Department of Child Support Services, Brad and Samantha requested a new birth certificate for Tatum with his name listed.

If a voluntary declaration of paternity is not signed, then local child support agency can bring an action to establish the parentage of your child. As part of this action, they will ask for a child support order. This service is free.

Lastly, you can start a parentage paternity action. This requires filing a petition with the local Superior Court.

Contact a Bay Area Family Law Attorney

If you are looking to establish the paternity of your child, an experienced Bay Area family law attorney can guide you through the appropriate steps. At Ahluwalia Law P.C., we understand the importance and value of a close and legally-recognized father-child relationship and will provide the advice and representation you need to make it happen. For more information or to get started, contact us.