search slide
search slide
pages bottom
Currently Browsing: Family Law

Establishing Paternity of Your Child

Establishing paternity means more than just child support. Being acknowledged as the legal father of your child can give you clear definition of your role as the father, having legal rights and responsibilities in custody, visitation, and parenting time which plays a major role in any parent/child relationship. There are other legal advantages to establishing paternity, and the website of the Marshall & Taylor, P.C., suggests that unwed fathers should act quickly in order to set up paternity, otherwise issues may occur.

Every child has the right to know his father, and the father also has equal rights to know his child. Legal benefits that paternity can provide are:

  • Financial support from the father – being acknowledged as the “legal” father not only means child support, the child also has the right for death benefits (such as social security benefits, Veteran’s benefits, inheritance, etc). They can receive this after their father’s death. Not legally establishing the paternity may enable the child to forfeit such benefits.
  • Access to father’s medical history – health issues such as cancer or other genetic diseases that can be passed down can be put into light. A child may be informed of their health risks and could help in ensuring they are in proper healthy conditions.
  • Adoption – for a legal adoption to take place both parent should generally agree to this option; if the father is not legally recognized by court, he does not have any right to contest any actions or moves in the adoption process.
  • Future relationships and relatives – a child may want to know and form close relationships with their father’s side of the family, and this may be achieve if they know who their father is. Future relationships can also be affected by the presence of the father growing up.

The simplest and most recognized way of proving paternity is through a DNA test. For an unwed father, even their presence during the birth of the child does not make them the legal father; they have to file an “Acknowledgement of Paternity” as soon as possible so that the child and the father’s rights are protected. Proving paternity can be confusing and may require a lot of hard work, which is why having legal assistance and advice is one way to ensure everything is taken care of.

When is a Parent Considered Unfit for Joint Custody?

One of the major aspects of divorce is the question of child custody. There was time when custody was awarded solely to the mother, especially if the child or children are still very young. The presumption is that as the primary caregiver, mothers are the “better” parent to provide the care needed. However, this presumption has been lifted and in most cases in California, courts prefer to give parents joint custody. Advocates of this default decision argue that the child or children have a better chance of getting through the disruptive force of divorce if both parents remain an active presence in their lives. It is also claimed that joint custody reduces conflict between parents.

But not all divorced parents are of this view. In many cases, both parents want sole custody of the child or children for a variety of reasons, but primarily because one considers the other an “unfit” parent.

In California, joint custody may mean one of two things: joint legal custody and joint physical custody. Joint legal custody means that both parents have equal rights to make decisions regarding the child’s education, health and welfare. Joint physical custody means that the child spends a significant amount of time with both parents, usually split evenly. To remove the rights of one parent for either type of joint custody is not at all easy unless it can be proven that one parent is unfit to take care of the child or children.

There is no clear definition of what makes a parent unfit, although the following factors may be considered as a given:

  • Past domestic violence
  • Physically or emotionally abusive behavior
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Sexual offense conviction

Some parents argue that since the other parent has a full-time job, it makes him or her unfit because of physical absence. Unless the work requires prolonged absence from the home or extended hours, mere employment is not proof of being unfit and may not be used as a basis for termination of custodial rights.