The Steps to Establishing Paternity Rights as a Father

Child custody and visitation, Co-parenting divorce, Family Law

You often hear of women obtaining a paternity test from a man.  But what about when a man wants to know whether he’s a parent or not?  This blog walk potential fathers through the process of obtaining paternity rights.

As a father of a child, born or unborn, you have the right to confirm your paternity and establish your paternity rights just as a mother does.  Once you open a court case to determine your parental rights, you can ask the judge to order paternity tests. If you are the father, the court will issue a judgment that will remain part of the court record.

It’s important to remember that establishing paternity comes with responsibilities. Once paternity rights are confirmed, you are responsible for child support, assistance with daycare costs, and splitting medical costs that haven’t been reimbursed with the other parent.  Using the steps outlined below, you can also ask the judge to set up a custody and visitation schedule so you can establish and maintain a relationship with your child, or children.  

How to Begin the Process of Establishing Paternity Rights

To begin the process, you will need to complete forms that are available through your attorney or online.  You could also visit the Family Court Facilitator’s Office for assistance, but they cannot give you legal advice or represent you.  

You can take one of three routes to establishing paternity:  

  1. Make an agreement with the other parent and sign a voluntary declaration of paternity;
  1. Ask the local child support agency to set child support and establish paternity in court;
  1. Go to court yourself and seek a judgment of parental relationship.

The easiest way to establish paternity rights, as in all family law cases, is to make an agreement with the other parent and sign a declaration (option 1). This option is the least expensive and the least stressful for the family.  Sometimes agreements aren’t feasible, which means you will have to choose the third option and take the case to court to gain paternity, and make custody and visitation arrangements.

Without an agreement, the court will send you to mediation, which in San Diego County is through Family Court Services.  This office is part of the Superior Court and, after talking to the parents and doing investigation they believe necessary, they will issue a recommendation to the judge assigned to your case.  You are entitled to object to the recommendation and have a hearing before your judge, but often, the recommendation is followed and you may need to explore other options to establish paternity rights

Option number two is also possible, but most people don’t want the local Child Support Agency to take over the support matters.  Your family law attorney can explain how these processes work in San Diego.

To initiate your court case for paternity rights, follow these steps:

  • File a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship, a Summons (a formal notice that a court case has been started and affects the persons named in the court papers), and a third form informs the court of who the children are, where they have been living, and whether there are other court cases affecting them in any jurisdiction.  
  • File signed and completed forms at the Family Law Division of the Superior Court.  
  • Obtain copies of forms and have them personally served to the other parent. You cannot serve the papers. Whomever serves papers must be over age 18, and will deliver the copies and blank response forms to the other parent, as outlined here.

What Comes Next: Custody and Visitation

If you would like to begin the process of obtaining custody and visitation, you should file a Request for Order. This asks the court for a hearing date and to start the Family Court Services procedure.  There are court fees to file your Petition and the Request for Order, unless you qualify for a fee waiver.  Once the other parent is served with the filed court forms, you need to wait 30 days for a response. If they do not respond, your attorney can assist you with next steps.  

As it is with all family law cases, it’s a good idea to get the process moving sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the longer you are not a part of a child’s life and the less likely it is you will receive a robust visitation schedule.

You deserve qualified legal representation in your quest for paternity rights. We’re here to help. Contact JWB Family Law for information on how we can help you start a paternity action in San Diego County.

A Certified Family Law Specialist, or CFLS, is an attorney who has obtained certification in the standards of California family law and demonstrated optimal legal competence. Attorneys who obtain this certification have specific expertise in all aspects of family law, which includes divorce or the dissolution of marriagechild and spousal support, child custody, and temporary restraining orders, among other areas of emphasis.

Not every attorney practicing family law has obtained this certification. In fact, the designation remains relatively rare—there are fewer than 2,000 CFLS attorneys in California and fewer than 200 in San Diego.

When you work with JWB Family Law, you can rest assured that your personal family situation and concerns are being handled by a team that has the specialization and expertise you need to bring your issues to resolution.


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