What Is a Parentage Action?


In California, a parentage action – or parentage case – determines who a child’s legal parents are (when this issue is not resolved). Parentage actions are also called paternity cases, and the legalities tend to be challenging. When a couple is married at the time of a child’s birth, the issue of parentage is generally established – the law presumes that the married individuals are the child’s parents (unless provided with a reason to believe otherwise). When the parents are not married, however, the issue of parentage becomes more complicated and needs to be established legally. If you are facing a parentage concern, don’t wait to reach out to an experienced California family law attorney for the legal guidance you need.

A Note About Domestic Partners

Since 2005, California – unlike many other states – has extended the presumption of parentage to couples who are domestic partners when their children are born. This shift in the law has helped to resolve a significant number of parentage matters.

When Both Parents Are in Agreement

Just because parents are not married or are not living together as domestic partners at the time of their child’s birth does not mean they are not in agreement about the child’s parentage. If both of a child’s parents are in agreement, the matter of parentage can be efficiently resolved by executing an affidavit acknowledging paternity that is signed by both parents and filed with the court. This action ensures that the father’s name will be added to the child’s birth certificate (if it’s not already there), and it cannot later be rescinded or voided.

The Legal Standing to File

To bring a parentage action in California, you must have legal standing to do so. This legal standing applies only to the following:

  • The child’s mother
  • The mother of an expected child
  • A man who believes he is the child’s (or the expected child’s) biological father
  • The child themself or a personal representative of the child
  • The child’s (or expected child’s) mother and father (filing a voluntary action together)
  • A state social service agency or prosecutor’s office (in cases involving child neglect or need)

The parentage action in question must rise to the level of warranting the court’s intervention in the form of compelling a DNA test. If the information contained in the action is compelling, DNA testing will be ordered, and the court’s parentage determination will be final.

The Child’s Best Interests

California courts are always guided by the best interests of any children involved, and it is universally accepted that children are better off when they are allowed to foster meaningful relationships with both parents (barring a compelling reason for determining otherwise). As such, the determination of parentage is routinely deemed to benefit the children involved.

Everyone Benefits

Having both parents in one’s life not only benefits the child who gains a parent but is usually to everyone’s advantage. Consider the following:

  • The child and their father can benefit emotionally from the bonds and strong relationship they are allowed to form.
  • The child is protected by inheritance rights (in relation to the father).
  • The mother and child benefit from the financial support that flows from the father, including child support.
  • The child is eligible to receive any veterans benefits, social security benefits, and any other benefits that flow from the father’s work, such as health insurance and life insurance.
  • The child can benefit from having a larger extended family.
  • The child benefits from having a more complete information regarding their health history
  • The mother can benefit from sharing the challenging job of being a single parent.

Seek the Legal Guidance of an Experienced California Family Law Attorney Today

If you have a parentage concern, seeking legal guidance early in the process is well advised, and the accomplished family law attorneys at Irwin & Irwin, LLP – proudly serving Orange County, Los Angeles County, and some areas in San Bernardino County – have the experience, compassion, and legal insight to help. With more than 50 years of combined legal experience backing us up, our legal team is committed to harnessing that impressive experience in its focused pursuit of your case’s most favorable resolution. We are on your side and here for you, so please do not delay reaching out and contacting or calling us at 714-222-3992 for more information about how we can help you today.