LEGAL ALLIES, TRUSTED PARTNERS

Establishing parentage is a key to custody rights

Unmarried parents must take extra steps to become legal parents of their children. Even being a biological father is not enough on its own to obtain parental rights.

The California courts explain how and why unmarried parents should establish parentage of their children.

Ways to establish parentage

Both parents can voluntarily sign a declaration of parentage or paternity and then file it with the Parentage Opportunity Program through the California Department of Child Support Services. They can ask for the form at the hospital when the child is born and then both put their names on the birth certificate. They could also sign the form later.

The alternative is to obtain a court order. If the other parent does not cooperate, this may be the option someone needs to take. It involves filling out court forms and serving and filing them. It may also involve a trial.

Reasons to establish parentage

If both parents get along, it may seem like filling out forms is an unnecessary step. However, if the mother dies suddenly without a will, a legal parent does not need to worry about losing the child to the mother’s next of kin or the foster care system. A legal parent also does not need to worry about losing contact with the child if the mother decides to move across the country for a better job. Legal parents can view their children’s medical and educational records and take part in the decisions for their children’s well-being.

Children gain the right to inherit from a legal parent, as well as the right to receive health insurance, life insurance, Social Security benefits and other types of benefits. They also have the security of the legal protection of both their parents.