Are you an unmarried mother who wants to know if you can get the court to issue a child support order without establishing paternity? Or, are you being told that you’re a child’s father and now the mother is asking you to provide financial support for your child?
Either way, you may be wondering if the court can issue a child support order without establishing paternity first – this is a reasonable question to ask.
Like all states, in California, when a child is born to married parents, the law automatically assumes the woman’s husband is the biological and legal father of the child. But when a child is born to unwed parents, the child has no legal father.
So, that brings us to the question about paying child support. Can the court order a man to pay child support without establishing legal paternity?
The answer is “No.” The family courts cannot issue child support or child custody orders until paternity is established.
How do I establish paternity in California?
To establish paternity is to establish a child’s legal father. In California, there are two main ways to do this.
The unmarried parents voluntarily sign a Declaration of Paternity form at the hospital shortly after the child’s birth.
Through a court-ordered DNA test.
No one can force you to sign a Declaration of Paternity form. Whether you’re the mother or presumed father, if you’re not 100% sure who the biological father is or if you have any doubt, you should ask the court for genetic testing to establish paternity. Eighteen or nineteen years is a long time for someone to pay child support for a child who is not theirs.
What are the benefits of DNA testing to establish paternity?
Once paternity is confirmed, the mother can ask the court to make a child support court order and the child’s biological father can exercise his parental rights, such as seeking custody and visitation of his son or daughter.
If a mother is seeking child support, legal paternity has to be established first. While a presumed father can voluntarily give the mother cash payments, the court cannot get involved and the father technically has no legal rights until they establish paternity.