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Want child custody protections? Establish paternity first

California fathers are sometimes unsure about the significance of establishing paternity. Many of these fathers see their children on a regular basis and even provide financial assistance to their child's mother without needing the intervention of a family court. Establishing paternity might feel unnecessary or like overkill, but without it, fathers do not have any legal rights when it comes to securing things like child custody or more.

Paternity is not always a given. This is especially true when unmarried parents have a child together. In general, mothers can list whoever she believes is the child's father -- or who wants to be the father -- on the birth certificate. While this is sometimes sufficient for establishing paternity, it is not always enough.

It is possible for paternity to be either voluntarily assumed or involuntarily established. Voluntarily assumed paternity includes situations in which a father marries the mother and agrees to have his name on the birth certificate. This may also happen when a father welcomes a child into his home and acts as though the child is his own, the father has an already established parent/child relationship and several other situations in which a man openly acknowledges paternity.

Involuntarily established paternity often stems from a mother bringing forth a paternity suit. This requires the provable father to not only appear in court, but to potentially participate in DNA testing. Since genetic testing is 99 percent accurate when it comes to establishing paternity, courts will uphold the findings of the tests.

Establishing paternity is essential for protecting a relationship that a father has with his or her child. Without this important legal protection, a California father might have no right to child custody and no options if the child's mother decides to cut off contact or suddenly leave the area. Since there is so much on the line, fathers who are ready to establish paternity should consider speaking with an experienced family law attorney first.

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