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The Importance of Establishing Parentage

The focus of a parentage action is determining a child's legal parents. This determination is critical because it dictates who has certain statutory rights and duties regarding the upbringing of the child; it determines who has a right to visitation with, and custody of, a child, who has a duty to support a child, and may also affect inheritance rights. Thus, establishing the identity of both of a child's parents may be essential to ensuring financial stability for a child, and ensuring the child benefits from both parents playing a role in his or her upbringing. The importance of establishing the parents of a child is not limited to legal issues like custody and support; knowing one's parents has important cultural and societal implications and often does and should play a large role in a child's development. Children are naturally curious about their background. Developing familial relationships, like those with aunts, uncles and cousins helps establish a child's place in the world. Having strong ties to family can enrich a child's life, allowing them to understand where they come from and relate to their peers and the world around them. Most importantly, it gives the child invaluable opportunities for love and support beyond that of a parental relationship. Also, determining a child's biological parents can help identify risks for certain genetically inherited medical conditions.

Establishing Parentage

Very often, disputes involving child custody/visitation and child support arise in divorce proceedings. In such cases, it is often unnecessary to establish parentage. This is because the law presumes that a child conceived during marriage is the natural child of the married couple—and this presumption is very strong. This same presumption also applies to domestic partnerships formed after January 2005. Thus, in a typical divorce case, the issue of parentage may be uncontested. Nonetheless, the presumption that a married couple are the natural parents of a child can be overcome, but only if certain circumstances are met, so it is not unheard of for parentage to be litigated in a divorce proceeding. If you are planning on filing for divorce and feel as though parentage of a minor child might be a contested issue, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Elainie Honjas at (408) 292-4849.

In cases where a child is born to unwed parents, or born significantly before or after marriage, establishing parentage is a necessary prerequisite to gaining any sort of parental rights or enforcing any sort of parental duties. Establishing parentage in these cases might be accomplished in a variety way:

  • Voluntary Declaration of Paternity:

The easiest way to establish a parental relationship in California is having both the people sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. If this declaration is executed properly, following all the necessary formalities, it has the same force and effect of receiving a judgment of parentage in court, but without the expense and time required to employ the judicial process. Once it is executed, both parents will have the right to seek custody and visitation of the child, and both parents will have a statutory duty to support the child. In certain circumstances, a voluntary declaration of paternity may be set aside, but these circumstances are extremely limited. If you have any questions about executing a voluntary declaration of paternity, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Elainie Honjas at (408) 292-4849.

  • Establishing Paternity in Court:

When the parties cannot agree to a voluntary declaration of paternity, parentage must be determined by the court. In making this determination, certain legal presumptions, genetic testing, or both come into play. California law regarding parentage is in a state of evolution. A biological connection between parent and child has become less important in determining parentage. Courts are empowered to determine that someone other than a biological parent is a child's legal parent. The legal issues involved with determining parentage can be complex, and sound legal advice is paramount. If you have a question or need assistance regarding a parentage issue, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Elainie Honjas at (408) 292-4849.

The Concept of Multiple Parents

California's progressive approach to parentage recently made a huge leap forward. Starting January 2014, a new law is in effect that allows a child to have more than two parents when certain circumstances exist. The new law may have the greatest impact on LGBT couples with children; if a LGBT couple prefers to have a biological parent play a parental role in the child's life, California's parentage law is now flexible enough to allow such an arrangement. It could also impact the role a step-parent has in a child's life. It is important to note, however, that the court will only allow additional parents where the proposed parent meets the normal standards for parentage under California law and where granting a third person parental rights would be in the best interest of the child. The law abolishing the strict two-parent rule is very new and very complex; there are many questions that have yet to be answered regarding child support and custody in a multiple parent arrangement. If you are interested in the possibility of a child having more than two legal parents or just have questions about the new law and how it might apply in your situation, please do not hesitate to call the Law Office of Elainie Honjas at (408) 292-4849.


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