The termination of parental rights is an extreme legal measure that is applied in only narrow and extraordinary circumstances.

The overwhelming majority of parents have the absolute legal right to a relationship and quality time with their kids. In these situations, a Walnut Creek paternity attorney may be able to help.

WHAT IS A COURT’S TOP PRIORITY WHEN A CASE INVOLVES KIDS?

When any child custody or child support matter becomes a legal dispute before a California court, the best interests of the child will be the court’s primary concern.

In our time, there is almost universal agreement that whenever it is possible, it is in a child’s best interests to have both parents fully involved in the child’s life – without regard to the precise details that may be spelled out in a child custody agreement or court order.

In a general sense, the right of a father to have a relationship with his child is recognized by the law and enforced by California courts.

Nevertheless, when a family court in California believes that such a decision is warranted, that court may award sole legal and physical custody of a child to either parent and restrict the other parent’s time and activities with the child.

Fathers who are supportive, genuinely involved with a child’s life, and genuinely committed to a child’s best interests have an immeasurably positive impact on the child’s character, self-esteem, and healthy emotional development.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “ESTABLISH” PATERNITY?

To “establish” legal paternity, a determination or a reasonable presumption regarding the father’s identity is made by both parents or by the state. California law presumes paternity when:

1. the parents are married, the mother’s husband is presumed by law to be the child’s father

2. a male has cohabited with the mother, a child is born, and that male demonstrates a parental-like commitment to the child’s best interests

If neither of the above descriptions apply, you will have to establish paternity to be considered a child’s legal father. If you need to establish paternity in California, arrange to speak – promptly – to an experienced Walnut Creek family law attorney.

WHAT IS A VOLUNTARY DECLARATION OF PATERNITY?

Signing a voluntary declaration of paternity (VDP) is the most expedient way to establish someone’s paternity under California law.

When unmarried mothers have children in California, personnel at the medical facility should provide the mother and the presumptive father (if he is present) with the VDP form and a full explanation of its importance.

When both parents have signed the VDP form, the father’s name goes on the birth certificate, legal paternity has been established, and the father has full parental rights.

IN WHAT OTHER WAY IS PATERNITY ESTABLISHED IN CALIFORNIA?

Paternity may also be established in California by bringing a legal action. Any of these parties may petition a California court to issue a paternity order:

1. the mother
2. a male who reasonably believes he may be the father
3. a male who is reasonably suspected to be the father
4. a child support or adoption agency

In a paternity action that comes before a California court, a judge may order the male to have genetic testing. A refusal to comply may be considered evidence of that male’s paternity.

WHAT MAY A COURT REQUIRE IF PATERNITY IS ESTABLISHED?

When paternity is established in a paternity action, a California court may also order a father to pay for:

1. health insurance for the child
2. child support
3. court costs including the other side’s legal fees

When paternity is established, the court may also order a modification of any current custody order or arrangement, including visitation rights.

In this state, both of a child’s parents have a right to request custody and visitations.

DOES GENDER STILL MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE?

By law, both legal parents of a child have equal rights and must be treated equally by the court. Whether the parents are or were married should make no difference to the court.

Because the court’s overriding concern in these cases is the best interests of the child, the participation of both parents in the child’s life is the court’s goal – unless the court determines that one parent’s participation may pose some impairment or risk to the child’s best interests.

Yes, historically, and particularly in the 20th century, in most child custody disputes, custody was awarded to the mother. But today, more and more fathers are becoming custodial parents, and more mothers are making time for visitations in their schedules.

California courts are committed to evaluating both parents equally in child custody and child support cases. The court considers a variety of factors – anything that might affect a child’s best interests – when deciding child custody and child support cases.

CAN CUSTODIAL FATHERS RECEIVE CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS?

Without regard to gender, child support payments are typically made in California by non-custodial parents to custodial parents to share the responsibilities for a child’s clothing, food, housing, educational costs, and medical care.

The exact amount of child support that a court orders will hinge on a number of considerations, but if a father is named as the custodial parent, he can usually expect to receive some amount of child support from the other parent.

While family courts in California are committed to treating both parents equally, in some individual cases, your legal rights may sometimes be difficult to exercise in California’s overcrowded and often chaotic divorce and family courts.

WHEN DOES A FATHER NEED A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY’S HELP?

If you are a father in California and you are in one of the following situations, you must reach out for help. You must have the advice and legal services of a skilled family law attorney immediately if:

1. You are seeking to establish paternity.
2. You are seeking custody of your child.
3. You are a custodial parent seeking child support payments.
4. You are a non-custodial parent paying too much child support.
5. You need the court to modify a current custody or support order.

Fathers in California who are involved in any legal dispute regarding their children should seek a divorce and family law attorney who has extensive experience representing fathers and defending their rights.

Nothing is more important than your children. If you need legal help as a dad with anything that concerns your kids, get that help at once. That’s your right, and it’s the right thing to do.