family law

How to Establish Parentage in California

Why Is Parentage Important?

The rights and responsibilities of a parent regarding the care and control of a particular child depend on their relationship with that child. When a parent-child relationship exists between them, the parent has certain rights and obligations regarding the custody and support of a child.

The parent-child relationship is a legal relationship that the law recognizes. As such, questions regarding the parent-child relationship are resolved by courts applying family law rules regarding the relationship. In California, parentage—formerly known as “paternity”—was governed by the rules of California’s Uniform Parentage Act (UPA).

Under the UPA, paternity was either presumed by virtue of the relationship between the purported parent and the child’s mother at the time of birth, or established through voluntary acknowledgments, or using evidence indicating a close genetic connection between a parent and their biological child.

Automatic Presumptions of Parentage

Under California law, the spouse of the person who gave birth to a child was automatically presumed to be the child’s parent. Similar presumptions apply to cases where the purported parents were not married when the child was born, but cohabitating.

However, legal presumption concerning parentage may be rebutted by stronger evidence, such as the results of a reliable method of genetic testing. In cases of competing presumptions of parentage, courts resolve the issue of parentage in favor of the presumption based on “weightier considerations of policy and logic.”

Genetic Testing

Under California’s UPA, a parent is presumed to be the parent of a child if the outcome of a reliable genetic test suggests a 99% probability of parentage. The results of a genetic test are calculated using a “combined relationship index”—a figure representing the product of all tested relationship indices.

As mentioned above, a valid genetic test that results in a 99% probability of paternity can be used to rebut the presumptions arising from the purported parent’s relationship with the child’s mother at birth. However, the outcome of a genetic test cannot be used to negate the parental rights of an intended parent in cases involving assisted reproduction technology.

Voluntary Acknowledgements of Parentage

Another method of establishing parentage in California involves a voluntary acknowledgment of the child’s birth parent and the purported parent. Voluntary acknowledgments were meant to easily settle the issue in cases where parentage is not contested.

Recently, the California legislature amended the California Family Code’s provisions relating to the UPA and went into effect at the beginning of the year. These amendments eliminated the use of gender-specific pronouns in favor of gender-neutral ones to accommodate the needs of LGBTQ relationships that do not literally comport with the provisions of the UPA.

Contact Family Law San Diego for Legal Counsel

If you need effective legal representation in a legal matter involving California family law, you should retain the services of an experienced attorney from Family Law San Diego.

Please call us at (619) 577-4900 for an initial case evaluation to determine what options are available to you in a family law dispute.