For better or worse, our society tends to favor mothers over fathers when it comes to child custody matters. When a child is born to an unmarried mother, she is automatically granted sole custody of a child. Although some Californians may believe that the fathers of these children are given equal rights, the truth of the matter is that unmarried fathers have to take action in order to preserve their legal rights.
The first, and perhaps most important, step is to establish paternity, which is the process through which a child's father is identified. There are many ways in which a man may be assumed to be a child's father. For example, the signing of a paternity affidavit will legally establish that a man is a child's father. Additionally, a man may be presumed to be a child's father if he accepts a child into his home and cares for him or her as if the child is his own. There are a number of other ways in which a father can establish paternity, but it is important to note that a DNA test, although sufficient to establish paternity, is not necessary.
By establishing paternity, a man protects his parental rights to his child. This means that he has the right to seek visitation and even child custody. Also, if the mother decides to give the child up for adoption, a man with established paternity can decide whether or not to give his consent to the adoption before it can occur. These are powerful rights that, without paternity, are never established and can be lost forever. On the flipside, established paternity can leave a man open to child support should the mother choose to seek it.
In the end, regardless of which side an individual falls on, establishing, or even challenging, paternity can be critically important. Therefore, Californians who find themselves facing paternity issues or wanting to establish father's rights should think about obtaining competent legal assistance.