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What are the benefits of establishing paternity?

In California, a child born to married parents will in most situations have the husband listed as the father on official birth records. Unmarried parents, however, must take specific action to establish legal paternity. By choosing to sign a form called a Declaration of Paternity, the parents will provide their child with the same rights as a child born within a marriage.

These rights for the child include legally obliging both parents to provide financial support. If one of the parents does not have custody of the child, it is still possible for the child to be included in the parent's medical plan and receive coverage as a dependent. The child will also have a right to access family medical records should the need arise. The emotional benefits of knowing the identity of a father could also promote a child's well-being.

The California Department of Child Support Services operates the Paternity Opportunity Program to help connect children with their unmarried fathers. Through this program, roughly 330 hospitals and clinics with birthing facilities offer fathers a chance to officially document their paternity. County welfare and vital records offices, prenatal clinics and courts also participate in the program.

The establishment of paternity for an unmarried partner could enable a person to ask for child support or collect unpaid sums. In some situations, a person might choose to enlist the help of an attorney in this process. Documentation about paternity and the income of the custodial and noncustodial parents could be gathered by an attorney and filed with a court. An attorney might also help locate a parent who has left the state. Communications with out-of-state child support agencies might possibly be handled by the attorney.

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