Paternity is the official name for a case about child custody or parentage. Usually, if the natural parents are married when a child is born, there are no questions about child custody because the law presumes the paternity of the father. Paternity issues tend to arise when a child is born to an unmarried couple. In these instances, parentage of the child needs to be established legally and typically before child support, child custody, visitation rights, name change, health insurance, or birth expenses are resolved by the court.
When disputing paternity, the court may order a genetic test, also known as a DNA test, to determine the paternity of the father. Sometimes, a voluntary declaration of paternity may be used to establish the paternity of a child. In other instances, child custody experts may get involved. Occasionally, the law may even determine that there may be more than two legal parents.
Other issues that tend to arise include determining who will care for the child, where the child will attend school, what extracurricular activities that child will be enrolled in, relocation of a party with the child, or even under what circumstances a parent can take the child out of the county, state, or country.
In addition to child support and child related expenses, the court can order one party to pay the opposing party’s attorney fees, including the cost of maintaining or defending the proceeding. The costs awarded may also include legal services or costs rendered before or after the commencement of the proceeding.
On October 4, 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation SB 274 allowing children in California to have more than two legal parents. Governor Brown stated that the legislation addresses the changing family structure – such as situations where same-sex couples have a child with an opposite-sex biological parent. Such legislation gives the courts the ability to divide custody and financial responsibility among three or more legal parents who are involved in raising the child.