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How to Dispute Paternity in California

Paternity refers to assigning a child’s legal father. The legal father does not necessarily have to be the biological father. If a different person signs a paternity form, or if the biological father does not petition the court for a paternity test, that person could become the legal father. Disputing paternity may be necessary to avoid the legal responsibilities that come with legal parentage, such as making decisions for the child or paying the other parent child support. Both spouses can dispute parentage in the state of California.

Take a Paternity Test

In some cases, disputing paternity can be as simple as taking a DNA test. A DNA test proving that the alleged father is actually not the biological father can be enough for a judge to rule in the individual’s favor during a paternity dispute hearing. A legal paternity test costs between $300 and $500, and typically involves a comparison of the child’s DNA to the alleged father’s DNA to check for a match. However, an individual can still be the legal father even if he is not the biological father. In these cases, disputing paternity is more difficult.

Understand Automatic Paternity

In California, a father may automatically assume paternity if he is married to the mother of the child at the time of birth. In general, the law presumes that married spouses at the time of the child’s birth are the legal parents. This is true for domestic partners in California as well, as of January 1st, 2005. It is not possible to disprove this conclusive presumption, even if a paternity test proves that the legal father is not the biological father. A lawyer is typically necessary to dispute paternity in these cases.

Respond to Summons and Complaint Regarding Parental Obligations

You have 30 days to take a paternity test if you wish to dispute a summons from your local child support agency. If you miss this deadline, the courts will establish you as the legal parent even with evidence demonstrating otherwise. Always respond to a summons or complaint from a child support agency right away. Fill out the appropriate court forms, have a lawyer review your paperwork, take the necessary tests, and serve your papers to the child support agency. The agency may then dismiss your case if a paternity test shows you are not the father.

Cancel a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity

A voluntary Declaration of Paternity is a form both parents sign to declare paternity of the child. Disputing paternity after signing this form takes submitting a Declaration of Paternity Rescission from one parent within 60 days of signing the original declaration. You must go to court to cancel your declaration if more than 60 days have passed, or if the other parent or local child support agency has initiated a court case that uses the declaration of paternity.

Dispute a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship

In a same-sex relationship, one spouse may issue a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship to the other spouse. Disputing this petition will take filing a response and demonstrating that the receiving spouse did not intend to become the child’s mother or father. It may take a legal battle to dispute legal parentage if the spouse had already signed the Petition to Establish Parental Relationship. In some cases, it may not be possible to dispute paternity at this point.

Hire a Family Lawyer

Disputing paternity is a very complex process in California. Parentage laws are highly complicated. It could be too late to dispute paternity if a court order has determined someone to be the legal father, for example. Paternity disputes in same-sex marriages can involve issues regarding whether each spouse intended to become a parent. Speak to an attorney if you wish to dispute paternity. A lawyer can help you work through the complicated aspects of your claim with the goal of doing what is best for you and your family.