Dad teaching son to fish on dock in forest. Both wearing blue. Photo represents paternity.

What Are My Parental Rights in California?

Parents have rights and responsibilities toward their children. Family law courts recognize these rights. In California, parents have the right to provide for the care, custody, companionship, and management of their children.

You have the right to make educational and medical decisions for your child and have regular contact with them, even if they do not live with you.

When Do I Get Parental Rights?

Mothers gain parental rights the moment they give birth. Married men gain parental rights when their wives give birth. Unmarried men must appear on their child’s birth certificate or establish parentage (also called paternity) to gain parental rights.

Both men and women can gain parental rights via adoption, as well.

Can I Lose My Parental Rights?

Yes. If you abuse or neglect your child, the court can terminate your parental rights. You can also choose to terminate your parental rights if you wish to place your child for adoption or facilitate a stepparent adoption.

California courts do not terminate parental rights unless the decision is voluntary or necessary to protect the best interests of the child. Grounds for termination may include:

  • Abandonment
  • Neglect or cruelty
  • Substance use disorder
  • Felony conviction
  • Mental or physical disability

Usually, your child’s other parent will file a petition to terminate parental rights and gain full custody. San Diego Child Welfare Services (CWS) may also file this petition. Sometimes, grandparents or other concerned relatives can also file a petition to terminate parental rights.

Can I Protect My Rights in Child Custody Cases?

Unless there are allegations of abandonment, neglect, or abuse, your parental rights will not be at risk during a child custody case. Even if the other parent wants sole custody, the court will act in your child’s best interests – and uphold both parents’ parental rights if possible.

Courts throughout California agree that spending time and having a meaningful relationship with both parents is in the child’s best interests, and judges will do what they can to facilitate this.

You have the right to visit your child unless the court decides that visitation would be physically or emotionally harmful to your child.

All this aside, child custody cases can be difficult, and you will need to protect your rights, especially if your ex-spouse or co-parent is seeking sole custody and/or making false allegations.

Hiring an experienced family law attorney is the best way to protect your rights in court.

Together, our attorneys at Family Law San Diego have more than 200 years of legal experience, and many of our lawyers are board-certified family law specialists. We are leaders in family law who seek to empower our clients.

If you need help protecting your parental rights in California, please call us at (619) 577-4900 or contact us online.