When a child is born to an unwed mother the paternity of the child may be in dispute. In California, paternity is determined through genetic testing or voluntary acknowledgment of the father. Once paternity of a child is determined, the mother can collect child support from the father and the father can pursue custody or visitation rights. Additionally, as of 2005, California also has laws for "establishing parentage" when the child's parents are same-sex domestic partners. Paternity and parentage laws are codified in California Family Code Sections 7550-7650.
Declaration of Paternity
Fathers can voluntarily declare paternity by signing a Declaration or Paternity form at the hospital when the child is born or later through the family court system when a mother instigates an action to determine paternity of her child. If a father voluntarily declares paternity, no genetic testing will be conducted. Laws regarding the establishment of paternity by voluntary declaration is codified in California Family Code Sections 7570-7577.
If the mother is unsure who the father of her child is or the alleged father denies he is biologically related to the child, genetic testing can be ordered and administered through a California child support agency to determine paternity of the child. Most labs, however, will not conduct genetic testing until the child is at least 6 months old. The mother can still begin the paperwork to establish paternity before that time, including while she is still pregnant with the child. Laws regarding using blood tests to determine paternity are codified in California Family Code Sections 7550-7558.
Once paternity is established, mothers can collect child support and receive Social Security or veterans' benefits if applicable. Prior to establishing paternity, mothers are unable to collect these funds. Mothers can, however, apply for and receive CalWORKS, a temporary financial assistance program for low income families with children, before paternity is established. Child support laws are codified in California Family Law Code Sections 4050-4076.
As of Jan. 1, 2005, if a child is born to registered domestic partners, California law under the Uniform Parentage Act presumes both parties are the parents of the child regardless of genetics. For example, if one domestic partner has a child through artificial insemination, both parties are considered parents even though the other partner is not genetically related to the child. The Uniform Parentage Act is codified in California Family Law Code Sections 7600-7650.