In California, a father signing an acknowledgement of paternity form at the hospital or placing his name on a child’s birth certificate may not necessarily establish paternity for that child. This documentation may be merely evidence of paternity and may not necessarily bestow true parentage rights (with certain exceptions).

Court orders are necessary to truly assert any and all rights a person has as parent of a child.

In California, when an unmarried couple has a child, each parent’s respective rights to that child can be severely limited until the Courts establish the parentage of the child.

Why is establishing Paternity important?

Typically, a paternity lawsuit is brought by either parent in court to resolve issues of custody, visitation and child support. Without Court orders establishing parentage and the parents’ respective rights and obligations, both parents, especially the child’s father, may encounter many obstacles in carrying out their respective wishes for the child.

Who can file a Paternity Lawsuit?

Either parent can bring a paternity lawsuit in court to resolve issues of parentage, custody, visitation and child support. Occasionally, the local Department of Child Support Services will initiate legal action at the request or on behalf of one of the parents. This legal action will eventually result in a Judgment of Parentage, which includes orders establishing both the identity of the mother of the child and the identity of the father of the child as well as other applicable orders, including custody, parenting plan, and child support.

What if I have been served with a Paternity Lawsuit?

If you’ve been served with a legal action for parentage, you have a limited time (in California, typically 30 days from the date of service) to respond in writing to the Court; otherwise, the other party can proceed with their requests by default and without any say from you.

While legal action is pending, either parent may seek temporary orders from the court. Once parentage has been established, either parent can request that the Court issue child custody, parenting plan and child support orders that will remain in effect until the judgment is entered, or until further court orders are issued.


Communication is vital in the legal process. We offer clients one free billing hour per month for any out-of-office attorney-client contact (phone calls, letters, emails) so we can collect all the necessary information and gain the very best outcome for you.