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Why unmarried fathers should establish paternity

There are many reasons you may want to establish paternity of a child. Among the most important is it can have positive effects on the overall well-being and identity of your child to know his or her family background and genetic history. Additionally, establishing paternitygrants your child the following benefits, to which, unless you are married to the child's mother, he or she would otherwise not be entitled:

  • Access to medical records -- A child's genetic background often has a considerable impact on his or her overall health, and by establishing legal paternity, you give your child access to critical information about family medical history. Doing so may help your child identify any genetic conditions that may be prevalent on your side of the family, and it can also help identify potential medical donors, in the unfortunate event that your child needs one.

  • Access to benefits and inheritance-- In order for your child to have any claim on any life insurance, Social Security or military benefits in the event of your death, legal parentage first has to be established and documented. Additionally, your child will not be able to inherit your estate in the event of your passing if you have not first established legal paternity.

How to establish or refute paternity or parentage

If you do not dispute that you are a child's father, you can voluntarily sign a declaration of paternity. You may also be able to pursue a paternity test via a court order (if necessary, your local child support agency may be able to assist you). If the test is administered by the Department of Child Support Services, you typically do not have to pay for it. If, however, you are ordered by the court to undergo parentage testing, you may have to pay upwards of several hundred dollars to do so.

You can also refute a paternity claim if you believe you are not the father of a particular child. Proving you have not fathered a child protects you from false child support claims and additional responsibilities.

To discuss your specific situation or find out more about proving or disproving parentage in California, consider enlisting the aid of an attorney.

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