1. WHAT is paternity? Paternity means fatherhood. Establishing paternity is the legal process of determining the legal father of a child who was born to unwed parents. When parents are married, in most cases, paternity is established without a legal action by virtue of their marriage. If parents are unmarried, paternity establishment requires a judicial court order. This legal process should be started by either parent as soon as possible for the benefit of the child.
Until a paternity is established, the father does not have the legal rights or responsibilities of a parent. Therefore, unless paternity is established, the father does not have to pay child support.
2. What if he does not cooperate? It is okay. Paternity can still be accomplished without his help so long as the initial court documents were served to him personally and he knows about this action. If the father denies paternity, it can still be established after DNA tests are given to the mother, child and the alleged father. This DNA testing excludes men who are not the father and indicate the likelihood of paternity of a man who is not excluded. Of course, DNA tests are very reliable which is why so few paternity cases actually go to trial. In most cases, the issue of paternity can be easily established by such tests.
3. What if I only want support from him? Establishing paternity means that he will have responsibilities of a father, but he will also have the privileges of being a father. This usually means that the father will be afforded rights to his child unless it can be proven that he is a danger to the child and the child’s health, safety and welfare. With the privileges of being a father, he will have the opportunity to see his child grow-up as if the child was born between wed parents.
4. Why should paternity be established if the father has no money to support the child? When the father starts working, he will be able to support the child. Establishing paternity as soon as possible will make collecting child support easier later on. Moreover, if the father refuses to work, the court can impute income and base a child support order on that imputed income. In other words, he cannot be lazy in working.
As stated previously, throughout the years that I have practiced family law here in Los Angeles, I found that my Pilipino clients have to be briefed about the law and what the law could and would provide for them. They tend to bring their own knowledge of the law from the Philippines and expect that the Philippine law would also apply here in the United States. This is rarely the case and is a cause of much confusion. That is why it is very important that we Pilipinos know our rights in this family law area so that we could plan ahead of time before it is too late. Understanding your rights in family law could and would protect you.
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Ethelene F. Salas, Esq. is a practicing family law attorney. Ms. Salas is a Filipino-American born in the Philippines, raised in the United States, and speaks Tagalog fluently. The Law Offices of Ethelene F. Salas is located at two locations – the main office at 100 N. Barranca St., Suite 700, West Covina, CA 91791 and affiliated offices at 18000 Studebaker Road, Suite 700, Cerritos, CA 90703. To schedule an appointment with her, please call (626) 858-4646 or visit www.EFS-Law.com.