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Parentage cases, also called "paternity cases," are when the court makes orders determining who the child's legal parents are.

If parents are married when a child is born, there is usually no question about parentage. The law assumes that the married persons are the child's legal parents, so parentage is automatically established in most cases.

But for unmarried parents, parentage of their children needs to be established legally.

In some cases, the law may also determine that a child has more than 2 legal parents.

Establishing parentage means obtaining a court order or signing an official Declaration of Paternity that says who the legal parents of a child are. For example, if the parents of a child were not married when the mother became pregnant or when the child was born, the child does not have a legal father until parentage is established. So even if a father can prove he is the biological father of a child, if he was never married to the mother, he does not legally have any rights or responsibilities for the child. For that, parentage must be established legally.

Establishing parentage is necessary before custody, visitation, or child support will be ordered by a court. You can ask the judge for child support or custody and visitation orders as part of a case that establishes the child’s parentage.

  • If a father does not admit that he is the parent, the court may order the alleged father, mother, and child to submit to genetic testing.

Establishing parentage is also necessary for same-sex parenting situations if the parents were not married when the mother became pregnant or when the child was born. For example, if two unmarried women agree to co-parent a child, and the woman who did not give birth to the child wants to be established as a legal parent, she would have to ask the court for an order establishing her parental rights legally. The court may order the person trying to establish herself as the “other mother” to prove the couple intended that she be the child’s parent. The same would be true of a same-sex relationship in which two men intended to be the child’s parents. They would have to prove to the court that they intended to be the child’s parents, and that they behaved that way.

The laws on parentage can be complicated.  At Law Office James Chau, we are here to help you navigate the process and to understand your options.  Please contact us for your 20 minute free consultation to discuss how we can help you with you paternity situation.