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What Are My Unmarried Parent Custody Rights in CA?
Has paternity been established?
Generally, when a child is born into a marriage, there is a legal presumption that the husband and wife are the parents of the child. California Family Code Section 7541 provides:
“Except as provided in Section 7541, the child of a wife cohabiting with her husband, who is not impotent or sterile, is conclusively presumed to be a child of the marriage.”
If the parents of the child were not married at the time of the child’s birth, the child is effectively born without a legal father. Unmarried parents of a child must establish parentage by either:
1) A court order or;
2) by signing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity (VDP).
Unmarried Parent Custody Rights Parentage Action in Sonoma County
A parentage action can be brought by either the mother, father, child or child’s personal representative. Obtaining a court order for parentage requires filing several forms with the court including a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship (FL-200), a Summons (FL-210) and a Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (FL-105(A)/GC-120(A).
Once the papers are served on the other party, there are three possible outcomes:
First, if the other party responds, the case becomes contested and the court will ask that you go to mediation and may order DNA testing before the judge will make a decision on the matter at a hearing.
Second, you and the other parent could resolve the matter by a written agreement which would include the issues of custody, visitation and child support.
Third, if the other party does not respond after 30 days of serving the papers on them, you can request to obtain a judgment by default.
What is a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?
A Voluntary Declaration of Paternity (VDP) is and official document, and while generally signed at the time of birth at the hospital it can be signed later. To be effective, the VDP must be signed voluntarily and filed with the California Department of Child Support Services Paternity Opportunity Program.
California Family Code Section 7573 provides:
“A completed voluntary declaration of paternity, as described in Section7574, that has been filed with the Department of Child Support Services shall establish the paternity of a child and shall have the same force and effect as a judgment for paternity issued by a court of competent jurisdiction. The voluntary declaration of paternity shall be recognized as a basis for the establishment of an order for child custody, visitation, or child support.”
Can I Establish Custody Without a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?
To establish custody and visitation without a VPD, the unmarried parent must first file an action to establish parentage as discussed above. Establishing custody and visitation orders through the court with a valid VPD is easier than by a parentage action because it skips the step of having to establish parentage. Because the VDP establishes parentage with the force and effect of a judgment from the court, the unmarried parent can file a Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children.
This area of the law can be tricky and it is a helpful to have the assistance of an experienced attorney. If you are interested in learning further about unmarried parents custody rights, or some other unmarried parent rights related matter, please contact the family law attorneys of Beck Law P.C. to arrange for a free and confidential consultation.
Unmarried Parent Custody Rights – Lawyer Links