What Is a Paternity Case

In a “paternity” case or “parentage” case, the court makes orders that determine and confirm who are a child(ren’s) legal parents.

If parents are married when a child is born the law assumes that the married persons are the child’s legal parents and their parentage is established. This is different for unmarried parents, so parentage needs to be legally established.

Note: After January 1, 2005, if parents are registered domestic partners when a child is born, the law assumes that the domestic partners are the child’s parents.

How Does Someone Establish Paternity

Establishing parentage means obtaining a court order or signing an official Declaration of Paternity that says who the legal parents of a child are. For example, if the parents of a child were not married when the mother became pregnant or when the child was born, the child does not have a legal father until parentage is established. Even if a father can prove he is the biological father of a child, if he was never married to the mother, he does not legally have any rights or responsibilities for the child. To have legal rights to a child, you must legally establish parentage.

Before a parent can obtain court order relating to custody, visitation or child support, the child’s parentage must be established. If either parent denies the alleged person is the child’s Father, the court may order the Mother, child and alleged Father to submit to genetic testing.


In the situation where a man disputes, or questions, whether or not he is the Father of a child, he make request genetic testing. Until that is established he has no rights. This is known as DNA testing.

This is usually done by obtaining saliva (swabbing of the mouth) from the alleged Father and child.

If the Department of Child Support Services is involved because of a parent’s request for child support, and the Department of Child Support Services performs the test, normally there is no charge to either named parent. If the Court orders the parents to get genetic testing, there may be fees to have the testing done. The court will NOT accept private testing unless the Court has ordered the testing and directed the parents where to do the testing.

This is a very critical and emotional stage in the parentage process and is beneficial to have an experienced attorney to explain and guide you through the process.

Same Sex Parentage

If the parents of the child were not married when the Mother became pregnant or when the child was born, and the parties are same sex partners, and the other party wants to be legally identified as the child’s parent, the court may order the person trying to establish themselves as the child’s parent to prove that she/he was the intended parent during the relationship. The “other parent” must prove that the parties, when they were a couple, intended that she/he be the other parent. In same-sex relationship a party will have to prove to the Court that they intended to be the child’s parents and they behaved that way. The law and legal process on parentage rights can be complicated and confusion, so hiring an experienced attorney in this area is critical, especially for the parent trying to establish paternity and wants a lifelong relationship with a child they love.

After Paternity Is Established

Once a person is established as the father or mother of a child, he or she will have all the rights and responsibilities of a parent. That parent may request custody and visitation orders and establish a physical, mental and emotional relationship with the child. Both parents will be responsible for financially providing for their child. It is a crime for a parent who has been ordered to provide support for a child fails to do so. Children are entitled to the same lifestyle and their parents.

The Benefits of Establishing Paternity?

Knowing and having parents is emotionally beneficial to any child. It also legally entitles a child to the same rights and privileges of those children whose parents are married. Children are entitled to financial support from both parents, having the legal identity of both parents, names of both parents on a birth certificate, family medical history and records, health and life insurance benefits, the right to inherit from either or both parent and the right to receive social security and veteran’s benefits.

If you want to establish paternity, or refute paternity, you will need an experienced attorney to make sure your interests, and potentially your child’s interests, are protected. Keep in mind that after paternity is established the issues of child custody, visitation and support also need to be addressed. Sabrina C. Fernandez has been handling paternity matters for more than 16 years and can guide you through this sensitive and confusing process and you may contact her for representation.

Client Reviews

Sabrina Fernandez represented me in a divorce where my soon to be x was requesting high spousal support, money for HIS bills and to have me removed from my own home. To make a long story short, Sabrina made a fool of him and his lawyer and we walked out victorious and he walked out with a lousy 3k...

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