Establishing Paternity: What to do and Why


One establishes paternity (or parentage) when he or she is one of the parents of a minor child, is not married to the other parent and wants the court to make custody and visitation orders, child support orders or both, relating to that child.


When parents are married, the court does not question who the child’s father is.  If parents are not married, the court cannot assume any particular person is the child’s father and that must be established.


The first step is to consult with an attorney.  Although you may not require an attorney, it is preferred to ensure you meet all legal and procedural requirements, as the process can be extensive and time-consuming.  An attorney will also ensure your rights are protected by obtaining proper service of documents on necessary parties.


After you consult an attorney, in all cases, you file a Petition to Establish Paternity (Family Law form FL-200).   On that form, you provide pertinent information regarding yourself, the other parent and your child.  You also must verify the other parent resides, or you had sex with the other parent (resulting in the birth of your child), in the county in California in which you file).  If the child’s father signed a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity, indicate it on the form and attach it.  Finally, on the form you ask for the orders regarding custody, visitation, support and payment of reasonable expenses for the birth and attorney fees.


Once the forms are filed and served on the other parent, the other parent has thirty days to file a Response (Family Law form FL-220) in which they indicate their facts and requests to the court.  If the other party does not file a timely Response, the parent who filed the Petition may proceed by requesting a default Judgment (without the participation of the other parent).

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