The California Courts provide that if you are the father of the child, a non-biological parent, the partner or spouse of the child’s biological parent, or in some other way believe you have or should have parental rights as to the child in the case you need the following information.

The legal terms used for every possible situation can be complicated, and you must inform the social worker and the court that you are the child’s parent if you want to be included in the child’s dependency case as such.

You can qualify as a presumed parent in various ways. The most common ways to demonstrate to the court that you are the presumed parent include:

  • Your name is on your child’s birth certificate.
  • There is a family court order that establishes parental relationships.
  • You have acted like the child is your own and raised the child as your own.
  • If you are a presumed parent, you have the right to reunification services (these are services that assist you in bringing your child back into your care), visitation with your child, and custody of your child. Your relatives will also receive special consideration when the social worker decides where your child should reside.

Keep in mind that the presumed parent category does not apply only to men. If you and your partner are, or were, raising your child together, you may be considered a presumed parent. If you are a family member or close family friend who has been caring for a child that now has a dependency case, you may qualify as what is called a “de facto parent.”

Each state has specific laws regarding the qualifications for this type of parent. It is recommended to research these terms to understand the process better.

What Does Paternity Mean?

For Indiana Courts, paternity means fatherhood. Establishing paternity grants a child the legal father they need. It also provides the father with rights and obligations related to supporting the care of his child. It is critical for the child to know who they are. A child gains a sense of identity and belonging by learning about both parents.

Both parents have the right to establish a healthy relationship with their child(ren) and an obligation to care for their child(ren). Building the relationship from the beginning provides a greater opportunity for a healthy relationship and ensures the father’s legal right to a relationship with his child. Legal fathers have similar parental rights and responsibilities as the mother, including the right to seek custody or parenting time.

Parents and their children should be wary of any potential inherited health problems. Establishing paternity gives the child a greater likelihood of access to this information. In addition, establishing paternity is the first step in preparing plans to provide the financial support a child requires. With legal paternity established, the child can have access to the following:

  • Social Security dependent or survivor benefits;
  • Inheritance rights;
  • Veteran’s benefits; and
  • Life and health insurance benefits.

How Is Paternity Established?

Every state has its interpretation of the laws and regulations. Therefore, looking up your local state website on this issue can be useful. Generally, a man is presumed to be a child’s legal father if the following applies:

  • He and his wife are married when the child is born, or
  • If the child is born no later than 300 days after the marriage ends.

In all other cases, legal paternity must be established in one of two following ways:

  • Paternity Affidavit, or
  • Court Order.

A paternity affidavit is a legal document that allows a man and a woman to declare, under penalty of perjury, that the man is the biological father of a child. A properly executed paternity affidavit establishes legal paternity (fatherhood) and grants parental rights and responsibilities without obtaining a court order.

A paternity affidavit may be completed at the hospital within 72 hours of the child’s birth or at your local health department any time before the child is emancipated. If a paternity affidavit establishes paternity, the Department of Health will include the father’s name on the child’s birth certificate.

The second way paternity can be established is through an order from the court. Either parent may file an action in an appropriate Indiana court seeking a determination of paternity. Depending on the case circumstances, the county prosecutor’s office can also file an action. After the action is filed, the court will announce a hearing date and notice will be provided to both parties.

At the hearing, the parties may agree to paternity without the benefit of genetic testing, request genetic testing to determine paternity, or the court may hear evidence and decide whether paternity should be established. In case the court orders genetic testing, the parties will be tested, and the court will wait to determine the issue of paternity until the genetic testing results are available to the court. Either parent or the county prosecutor’s support office may request genetic testing, also referred to as DNA testing.

What Is the Presumption of Paternity Laws?

According to the Legal Services of New Jersey, if paternity is not legally established, certain legal presumptions apply. A “legal presumption” is a fact that a court will assume to be true unless evidence admitted in court proves it false. For instance, in criminal cases, the court presumes that the defendant is innocent until sufficient evidence proves the defendant is guilty.

Several scenarios may result in a presumption of paternity, including the following:

  • The parents were married within 300 days of the child’s birth.
  • The husband of the child’s mother at the time of birth is presumed to be the father of the child.
  • The law also presumed paternity for a man who was married to the mother but either divorced her or died within 300 days before the birth, even couples who marry after the birth of the child.

However, if a man marries the mother after the child is born, a legal presumption arises if the following takes place:

  • He acknowledges the paternity in writing to the state Registrar.
  • He seeks to have his name added as the father on the child’s birth certificate.
  • He states that the child is his biological child to the community.
  • He agrees to or is court-ordered to pay child support for the child.
  • A man not married to the mother is legally presumed to be the father of the child if he both tells people that he is the child’s father and he provides support for the child before the child turns 18.

Moreover, there are some ways to deny parentage. The husband and the mother sign a form called a Denial of Parentage, acknowledging that the husband is not the child’s biological father, and they file both forms with the state Registrar. In cases with the sperm donor, who is the biological father is considered the child’s legal father, even if that is not what the donor or mother intended.

When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?

If you have questions or concerns about the presumption of paternity and specifically the father’s rights, it is important to seek out a local paternity attorney to guide you through the issues you are facing.