Los Angeles Paternity Lawyer

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While many families are never faced with the legal challenges surrounding a paternity case, those who are typically require skilled legal assistance to protect their rights and the best interests of their child. At Fernandez & Karney, our Los Angeles paternity attorneys work with both fathers and mothers to establish legal parentage in an effort to benefit our clients and their children.

The Los Angeles paternity lawyers at Fernandez & Karney:

  • Have more than fifty years of combined legal experience
  • Update you in a timely and efficient manner about your case activity
  • Are committed to providing you with the personalized legal service you deserve

Let our family law firm help you with your paternity case in California. Our Los Angeles paternity attorneys offer a free consultation to help explore your legal parental rights and options. Contact our office in Los Angeles today and let a professional answer your questions about how California’s paternity laws apply to you.

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How Can a Los Angeles Paternity Attorney Help?

Due to the legal knowledge a paternity case requires, and its potential complications, it is imperative you retain an experienced paternity attorney to represent your interests. A skilled paternity attorney strategically plans and presents your case to the court in a logical, well-reasoned argument.

At Fernandez & Karney, we represent you in all aspects of your paternity case and stand beside you throughout the paternity process from start to finish. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • DNA testing
  • Establishing child support
  • Preparing a child custody and visitation plan
  • When needed, challenging paternity

Our attorneys will explain California’s paternity laws and regulations to you. We will also:

  • Schedule your blood or DNA testing
  • Prepare and submit any court documents on your behalf
  • Represent you in any paternity hearings or a trial

Your consultation at Fernandez & Karney is completely confidential. Reach out to our Los Angeles office now to take positive action in your paternity case.

Why Is It Important to Establish Paternity in Los Angeles?

Until paternity, or parentage is established, the father has no legal obligations to the mother. This includes the duty to pay child support. The father has no rights to child custody or visitation.

However, once there is a ruling as to paternity, a child support order, custody order, and visitation order may be set and enforced on either parent’s behalf.

Establishing paternity is beneficial to the child as well as the mother. Once paternity is legally determined, a child may qualify for government benefits like Social Security and has the right to inherit from their father. Knowing a child’s father can also be helpful when background medical information is needed about both sides of a child’s family.

California’s Voluntary Declaration of Paternity

Paternity suits have quite the potential for complexity. Normally, the alleged father can rely on his constitutional rights, which include an opportunity to present his case on paternity issues in court. But in California, by signing a voluntary paternity declaration, usually at the time of the child’s birth, the self-designated father effectively waives these rights. So paternity law potentially implicates constitutional due process issues.

The paternity declaration can be validly rescinded within 60 days of placing the signature on the page. The court may even set it aside at a much later point, if confronted with the results of genetic testing. However, it is worth noting, the law requires that the judges look at a multitude of factors before making a decision. When considering what to disregard – the paternity declaration or the results of the genetic testing – the courts take into account the interest of the child, or, among other things, the possibility of a relationship between the child and its biological father.

California’s Paternity Presumption

In California, if a husband lives with his wife, a rebuttable presumption exists that he is the father of her children, unless he is impotent or sterile. Specifically, under the Uniform Parentage Act, paternity is presumed if the child is born within 300 days of termination of marriage, attempted marriage, or cohabitation.

The Act contemplates other scenarios that trigger the presumption in favor of paternity.  For example, if the alleged father marries the mother after the child’s birth, and consents to be named on the child’s birth certificate, he is presumed to be the biological parent.

The voluntary paternity declaration has a stronger force – and a bigger impact – than mere presumption: If valid, it has the effect of a judgment. This means that it serves as basis for court orders regarding child support and child custody, unless successfully disputed. However, when we speak about “voluntary paternity declaration” within the meaning of the law, this is more than a mere statement.

California Family Code requires among other things, that the declaration of paternity be in writing, signed by the parents, and witnessed by the hospital staff or notarized. An acceptable declaration of paternity is made on a form, provided by Child Support Services. This is not to say that actions and statements of the parent or alleged parent are disregarded. Assertions of the alleged father certainly play a role in establishing the parenthood presumption in the absence of a written declaration. Yet California statute requires not only that the presumed father “holds out the child as his” to others, but that he also welcomes the child into his home.

Blood tests can be used to challenge the paternity presumption, but a statute of limitations applies. However, there are situations when a blood test is not an option: For instance, if the child was artificially conceived, and the father gave consent, he cannot later use a blood test to argue he is not the father.

Who Can Bring a Paternity Suit in Los Angeles?

Paternity determinations have far-reaching implications respecting inheritance, accessibility to government benefits, and much more.  Therefore, the law places limits on who can bring these actions before the court and when and how parentage declarations are made.

In California, the law only allows specific persons to bring a lawsuit to establish or question a parent-child relationship.  Where a presumption in favor of parentage exists, like when a child was born during a marriage, the action for declaration of parentage can be initiated:

  • By the child themselves
  • By an adoption agency
  • By a prospective adoptive parent

This ability to sue is called “standing.”  Child Support Services also has standing to initiate a paternity suit.

Individuals or public institutions who furnish expenses for the following can also seek to enforce parental obligations directly in a paternity proceeding:

  • Pregnancy
  • Confinement
  • Education
  • Support
  • The funeral of a child

California law gives interested parties the power to sue. This includes parties to an assisted reproduction agreement.

When Can a Paternity Suit Be Initiated in Los Angeles?

A paternity lawsuit can be filed during the pregnancy of the mother. The man declared as the father in any official paternity judgment has two years to ask such judgment be vacated.

The two-year statute of limitations starts running when notice of paternity is served on the alleged father. After two years, even if genetic testing proves otherwise, the court decision will stand. 

Further, if the judgment was issued in a different state, California courts have to give it full faith and enforce it.

California courts have jurisdiction to decide paternity suits because the act of conception is performed within state territory.  It does not matter if conception is natural or artificial.  While the courts have another basis for jurisdiction, this particular rationale underscores the intimate nature of discussion during paternity proceedings. 

Thankfully, these hearings may be held in closed court.

Paternity Cases Can be Complex

Paternity issues extend well beyond a single blood test. For one, not just any test is accepted as conclusive or admissible as evidence in court.

Although mobile DNA testing facilities and other types of discount genetic testing are available, they would be questioned by the California courts. It is expected that any laboratories performing genetic tests be court-approved or accredited with California agencies designated by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Court Orders Available Once Paternity is Established

A successful paternity lawsuit allows a court to make several orders on behalf of the parents, interested parties, and the child(ren).  These include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Child support
  • Health insurance for the child
  • Physical and legal custody of the child
  • Child visitation
  • Payment of court costs
  • Payment of the genetic testing
  • Payment of either party’s reasonable attorney’s fees

It is wise to have experienced legal counsel representing in a parentage proceeding to ensure any additional orders are justly determined once all evidence is considered.

The Legal Process in a Paternity Lawsuit

Before beginning the paternity process, a parent should engage a Los Angeles paternity attorney. The paternity process is not only legally complex, but a parent can quickly become emotionally and mentally overwhelmed when trying to manage a matter involving their child.  

The first legal step in a paternity lawsuit is filing a petition. The parent filing the petition is called the petitioner. The other parent, called the respondent, is served with a court summons and a copy of the petition. 

The summons notifies the respondent of the paternity case. It also gives them a deadline to file a response to the petition. 

The petition contains the legal facts about the paternity case and establishes the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case.  

This includes:

  • California’s paternity statute
  • A statement regarding the residency of the alleged father and the mother
  • The child’s full name and date of birth
  • The relationship between each party and the child
  • Whether the mother was married at the time of birth and to whom
  • The status of any pending visitation or custody actions relating to the child in question

The court will order a pretrial hearing and review the case. Once the court evaluates the case, it will recommend whether the matter should go to trial, end in a compromise, or be dismissed.  Parties who do not agree to a compromise or dismissal as suggested will proceed to trial.

The court has the power to order genetic testing on all parties in a paternity case. The alleged father, mother, and child are all subject to testing.

Paternity cases can be lengthy. It is best to begin a case right after the birth of a child. Once paternity is established, child custody and visitation, and child support can be addressed.

Paternity and Child Support Orders in Los Angeles

Paternity cases are the first step in securing child support orders for many Los Angeles parents. Both parents have a legal obligation to provide financial support for their minor children in California. Child support is typically paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent until a child reaches eighteen or nineteen if they are still attending high school.

Child support is a monthly payment used to cover the basic costs of child-rearing.  These include, but are not limited to:

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Education
  • Medical care
  • Clothing

Child support in California is based on a statutory guideline. This guideline supplies the court with a formula to calculate a monthly support amount. The following types of information are factored into the child support calculation:

  • The number of children
  • The time each parent spends with the children
  • The parents’ gross income
  • Certain deductions from each parents’ gross income, like union dues
  • Health insurance costs for the children

Gross income is income from all sources.  f a parent has no income and has the ability to be gainfully employed, an income will be assigned to them accordingly.

Contact Our Los Angeles Paternity Attorneys Today

If you have questions about initiating a paternity suit, the presumption of paternity, or any other paternity matter in Los Angeles, Fernandez & Karney has answers. Our paternity attorneys are experienced in Los Angeles paternity law and ready to pursue your parental rights, whether these are child custody, visitation rights, child support or another issue.

At Fernandez & Karney, our experienced Los Angeles paternity lawyers can help with establishing paternity and child custody in paternity cases. Our legal team is here to help you through the entire process of establishing parentage. Our law firm prides itself in providing complete and detailed information on topics that matter to you. If you need further assistance, please call our law office or schedule a free consultation today!