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San Bernardino Paternity Lawyer

July 23, 2020

Paternity Issues Can be Complicated

Paternity issues extend far beyond a single blood test contrary to popular belief.  Also, as far as the blood test is concerned, not just any test is valid as conclusive or admissible as evidence in a court of law.  New York street corners might have mobile DNA testing facilities parked there.  They may be able to do your test for as low as $299, but a justice in California would be hard pressed to accept the validity of a paternity test done inside of a Winnebago. A normal and reasonable expectation is that the lab that conducts a genetic test is approved by the courts, or accredited with the state agencies designated by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Lawsuits targeting paternity can be exceedingly complicated. The alleged father of a child can rely upon his constitutional rights, which allow him the opportunity to bring his case on paternity issues before a family court judge. Nevertheless, in the state of California, by putting your signature on a voluntary paternity declaration,  an occurrence that normally takes place at the time of the child’s birth, the then self-designated father effectively gives up his rights. Therefore, paternity legislation potentially implicates constitutional due process matters.

Bringing a Case Against a Paternity Declaration

It is possible to have a paternity declaration rescinded within 60 days of signing it. The court could even set the declaration aside at a much later point in time.  For example, if a judge is presented with irrefutable results of a genetic test, those results could be used to invalidate a paternity declaration. Nevertheless, it is certainly worth noting that the law holds that the judges call a multitude of factors under consideration before handing down their decision. When choosing which to disregard – the signed paternity declaration or the results of a blood test – the courts additionally take into consideration the interest of the child, or, in addition to other details, the possibility of a bond between the child and his or her biological father.

The Presumption of Paternity

In the Golden State, if a husband resides with his wife as under normal circumstances, a rebuttable presumption that he is the father of her children endures, unless the husband is impotent or sterile. Interestingly, pursuant to the Uniform Parentage Act, paternity is presumed for a child who is born within 300 days of the end of a marriage, attempted marriage, or cohabitation.

The Uniform Parentage Act examines other scenarios that trigger the presumption in favor of paternity.  If the alleged father gets married to the mother after the child’s birth, for example, and allows the mother to name him on the child’s birth certificate, then he is presumed to be the biological parent.

This voluntary paternity declaration carries a more forceful authority – and a greater impact – than presumption alone: If the declaration is deemed valid, it has the effect of a judgment. What this signifies is that it serves as the foundation for court orders with regard to child support and child custody, unless that declaration is disputed with success.

In speaking about  “voluntary paternity declaration” within the confines of the legislation, this declaration goes further than just being a statement. The requirement dictated in the California Family Code, among other things, is that the voluntary declaration of paternity be properly documented, and signed by the parents of the child before witnesses.  Hospital or birthing center employees or a notary public can serve as witnesses. A valid voluntary declaration of paternity is completed on a form that is furnished by Child Support Services. 

 The idea of these requirements is not that actions and statements of the parent or alleged parent can be overlooked. Assertions of the alleged father certainly do play a critical role in establishing the parenthood presumption in the absence of any written declaration. Yet still, California statute obligates not only that the man who is the presumed father “holds out the child as his” to the people in his sphere, but that on top of that he welcomes the child into his home.

DNA tests can be brought in to challenge the paternity presumption, provided that is accomplished within the statute of limitations. That fact notwithstanding, there are some situations in which a blood test is not an option: For example, if the conception of the child was artificial, and the father consented to the arrangements for this, he cannot later bring a blood test to court to argue that he is not the father.

Filing a Paternity Action

Due to the fact that a paternity determination could have such far reaching implications, for example with respect to inheritance, the law aims to set limits on who can bring an action to court to get that parenthood declaration.  The law also details the steps they can take to accomplish this, and at what point in time they will be able to do it.

In California, the legislation only allows certain persons to bring a lawsuit to establish (or to challenge) a parent-child relationship. Where a presumption in favor of fatherhood already exists, for example, when the child was born under wedlock, the parties who can initiate an action for declaration of fatherhood:

  • by the child in question himself,
  • by officials from an adoption agency, or
  • by a potential adoptive parent at any time.

The ability to sue is referred to as “standing.”

Child Support Services also have the right to bring a paternity suit.

Generally speaking, if an individual or a public institution paid the expenses relating to:

  • Pregnancy,
  • education,
  • confinement,
  • support, or
  • The funeral of the child,

they may also attempt to enforce parental obligations directly inside of the proceeding for the determination of the paternity. The law gives folks the power to sue interested parties, which certainly could include parties to an assisted reproduction agreement.

Statute of Limitation on a Paternity Declaration

The way that the timing comes into play is that a paternity lawsuit can be filed before the child is born. The man identified as the father in an official judgment has two years to ask that this judgment be vacated.

The two-year statute of limitations starts to run from the time when the notice of paternity is served on the alleged father. After this period of time has expired, even in the event that genetic testing disproves paternity,  the court’s decision will remain in force. Furthermore, if the judgment was made in another state, the courts in California have to give it full faith and enforce it.

California’s Jurisdiction over Paternity 

What provides the California courts the jurisdiction to rule in paternity suits is the fact that the conception of the child was, whether it was natural or artificial, within the confines of the state. Of course, the courts have other methods by which to establish jurisdiction, but this rationale in particular underscores the intimate nature of the information that must be disclosed during paternity proceedings. Thankfully, the proceedings can be held in a closed courtroom. 

If you have a problem related to a paternity declaration, you would be well served by an experienced family law attorney who can make certain that your rights are upheld whether you are seeking to establish fatherhood or not.  



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