In the State of California, paternity (identifying a child’s father) is established automatically when the parents are married at the time of the child’s birth. If you and your child’s mother are not married, however, your paternity will need to be determined. This can be accomplished by both of you signing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity, but if this is not in the cards, a DNA paternity test is required. If you have questions or concerns regarding a paternity matter, don’t wait to reach out to an experienced California family law attorney who has a wealth of experience handling these often-challenging cases.
In California, the establishment of paternity – outside of marriage or mutual agreement on the part of both parents – must move through the court. Often the matter comes down to DNA testing. DNA testing is usually conducted via a cheek swab, and it is an extremely accurate means of determining a child’s father.
The DNA Testing Process
In California, you are generally entitled to genetic testing if you believe you are the father of a child, or you may be required to have DNA testing if the mother of a child believes you are his or her father. If you are served with a Summons and Complaint, it means the mother is requesting that your paternity be established. In this case, you have a limited amount of time to file an answer (if you don’t believe you’re the father). You can also, however, request that your paternity be established, and in either case, DNA testing will very likely be required.
The Child Support Services Department (CSSD) will schedule your DNA testing, and it’s important to keep all of the following seven tips in mind:
- One: be on time and well prepared for your appointment
- Two: make sure that you have a government-issued photo ID with you for your appointment.
- Three: When you arrive, your fingerprints and photo will be taken, which makes taking some pride in your appearance important.
- Four: If you are unable to make it to the appointment that’s been scheduled for you, be sure to let the office know about the scheduling issue as soon as you’re able to do so – and request that your appointment be rescheduled.
- Five: Keep in mind that the results of your DNA testing will take some time to process but that the laboratories that do the testing prioritize pending court dates. Generally, DNA paternity results are mailed to those tested.
- Six: You should understand that your level of cooperation can play a role in your case. This means that if you don’t show up for your DNA testing appointment, you can be officially identified as the child’s father (even without genetic proof).
- Seven: Know that establishing your paternity can benefit you as much as it benefits your child.
While you may have trepidation about becoming a father – or may be extremely eager to get started – it’s important to recognize that the establishment of paternity through DNA testing is a legal process, and you will need to follow the protocols.
Establishing your paternity can prove immensely rewarding, and the bond forged is likely to last a lifetime. In fact, the establishment of paternity tends to benefit all the parties involved in the following ways:
- You and your child are given the opportunity to develop an unbreakable bond.
- Your child benefits from having both parents in his or her life
- Your child benefits from the financial support of both parents.
- Your child’s other parent benefits from both the parental and financial support you provide.
- Your child’s rights of inheritance (regarding his relationship with you) are protected.
- Your child can benefit from your employment-sponsored health insurance and any veteran or Social Security benefits that flow from you.
The benefits that come with establishing who a child’s father is can be difficult to overstate. It is often well worth the time and effort to complete this process.
If you are facing a DNA paternity test, there is a lot at stake – you could be the father of a child, which can change your life dramatically. Better understanding your rights as a parent and how to protect them from the outset is paramount, and a compassionate California family law attorney with considerable experience handling challenging paternity concerns like yours can help.