Establishing paternity – in other words determining “who is the father?” – is important in legal issues, especially child support. In most cases, establishing paternity is more difficult than most people think. Many different factors are involved in determining child custody rights when parents are unmarried.
In some cases, it may be necessary to involve the court to help legally determine a child’s father and his obligations to pay child support. This legal action is called a paternity or parentage action. Either the father or mother can bring such legal action.
California’s Child Custody Rights for Unmarried Parents
California has established different child custody laws for married and unmarried parents. If parents are not married, the law gives the mother automatic custody of her child at birth. This means that the mother does not need to legally do anything when going through a separation with the father of her child. She automatically gets legal and physical custody under the law.
On the other hand, California law does not give an unmarried father any automatic custody rights to his children. This is an upsetting realization for most unmarried fathers, causing concern about the future of their relationship with their child. However, all is not lost. Unmarried fathers can seek paternal right to custody by establishing paternity.
Custody After Establishing Paternity
Once an unmarried father has established paternity, the parents will still need to initiate proceedings to seek formal custody or visiting arrangements. The court will need to intervene to change the mother’s automatic rights to child custody. The court’s decision is based on various factors, but California family courts generally favor in awarding joint custody. The reason is that the family courts believe that most children benefit from arrangements involving both parents.
However, this is not always the case. In some situations, the court may decide that either parent should not have any involvement in the child’s rights. Some common factors the court uses to base its decision upon include:
- The age of the child
- The preferences of the child
- The history of the relationship of the child with each parent
- Any potential risks posed to the child
- The lifestyle of the child with each parent
Moreover, once the father has established paternity, the mother can move to seek court involvement to establish child support payments. This may also be a difficult process, making it imperative to establish a legal, formalized agreement for payments.
Call an Experienced Central Valley Child Custody Attorney
If you are involved in a child custody battle or simply have questions regarding child custody, it is important that you have a knowledgeable attorney fighting for your rights. For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with a Central Valley child custody attorney, please call Gurjit Srai (209) 323-5558 or complete our online form.