When children are born in California, it is clear who is the biological mother of the child. However, it is not immediately clear who the father of the child is at birth. While the mother may know who the father is and the father may know it is his child, but that by itself does not make a father a legal father of the child.
Ways to become the legal father
It may seem odd, but biological fathers do not automatically have legal right to their children. To be the legal father, certain requirements must be met:
- One is that the father is married to or the registered domestic partner of the other parent at the time of the child’s birth
- Both parents signed a Declaration of Parentage stating the father is the legal father of the child
- A judge has declared that the father is the legal father in a court case
Becoming the legal father is important for a few reasons. One of the most important ones for the father is that it gives fathers the right to seek custody and parenting time. Before they are established as the legal father, the mother or other parent have all of the custody rights and are the ones to make all of the decisions for the children.
Being the legal father also allows the court to require the father to be financially responsible for the child. The child is also allowed to receive benefits such as survivor benefits or inheritances from the father.
Be aware of fathers’ rights
While fathers in California may voluntarily assume a parental role for their children right away when they are born, this by itself does not give them any legal rights. Those can only be requested after being deemed the legal father of the child. This is very important for both fathers and children, but many fathers may not know what they need to do to become the legal father. There is a process for establishing legal rights, which fathers need to learn.