Skip to Content

How to Establish Parental Rights in California

Fri 29th Mar, 2024 Family Law

As more children are born outside of marriage, establishing parental rights (also known as “paternity” rights and “parentage” rights) is becoming an increasingly important consideration for parents. But establishing parental in some cases is easier said than done. For example, couples who wish to adopt must often undergo a notoriously complex process to become legal parents. Likewise, even the natural parents of some children face significant headwinds when seeking to legally establish parental rights. If you’re seeking to establish your legal rights as a parent, a Stockton parental rights lawyer can assist you. 

Why Establish Parental Rights? 

Being a parent comes with major responsibilities (including the obligation to pay child support), so it’s easy to understand why it might not be for everyone. On the other hand, establishing parental rights comes with many benefits for the child, including: 

  • Establishing inheritance rights
  • Accessing their family’s medical history
  • Receiving health insurance coverage from the parents
  • Receiving government benefits from the parents

For parents, establishing parental rights allows them to seek child custody and visitation rights, as well as to make decisions that affect the child’s health, safety, welfare, and upbringing. 

Three Ways to Establish Parental Rights 

There are three primary ways by which an alleged parent can establish parental rights in California:  

By Presumption 

The most common way to establish parental rights is through presumption. A person is presumed to be the natural parent of a child if they meet any of the following criteria

  • The presumed parent and the child’s natural mother were married to each other, and the child was born of the marriage
  • Before the child’s birth, the presumed parent and the child’s natural mother attempted to marry each other
  • After the child’s birth, the presumed parent and the child’s natural mother married or attempted to marry each other
  • The presumed parent received the child into their home and holds the child out as their natural child

Presumed parentage may be challenged, but only within two years of the child’s birth. 

By Court Order

If none of the above scenarios apply, a person seeking to establish parental rights may have no choice but to do so through a court order. In California, the child’s mother, a man who believes he is the child’s father, a child support agency, an adoption agency, or the child themselves (if over the age of 12) can seek a parentage order. In many cases, the court will order genetic testing to determine whether the alleged parent is the child’s natural parent. 

By Voluntary Declaration 

When a child’s mother and a man agree that they are the child’s parents, they may file a voluntary declaration of parentage (VDOP). While signing a VDOP is significantly simpler and less costly than obtaining a court order, the parties to the VDOP forfeit their right to seek genetic testing or to obtain a declaration of parentage through the courts. 

Get Help Establishing Your Rights With Help From a Stockton Parental Rights Lawyer

For more information about establishing parental rights in California, please contact a Stockton parental rights lawyer at McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau by using our online form or calling us at 209-477-8171.

Back to Top