Can Mothers Seek Child Support Without Establishing Paternity?

Are you an unmarried mother who wants to know if you can get the court to issue a child support order without establishing paternity? Or, are you being told that you’re a child’s father and now the mother is asking you to support your child? Either way, you may be wondering if the court can issue a child support order without establishing paternity first – this is a reasonable question to ask.

Like all states, in California, when a child is born to married parents, the law automatically assumes the woman’s husband is the child’s biological and legal father. But when a child is born to unmarried parents, the child has no legal father. So, that brings us to the question about child support. Can the court order a man to pay child support without establishing paternity? The answer is “No.” The family courts cannot issue child support or child custody orders until paternity is established.

Establishing Paternity in California

To establish paternity is to establish a child’s legal father. In California, there are two main ways to do this. One, the mother and father voluntarily sign a Declaration of Paternity form at the hospital shortly after the child’s birth. Second, through a court-ordered DNA test.

No one can force you to sign a Declaration of Paternity form. Whether you’re the mother or presumed father, if you’re not 100% sure who the father is or if you have any doubt, you should ask the court for a paternity (DNA) test to confirm paternity. Eighteen or nineteen years is a long time for someone to pay child support for a child who is not theirs. However, once paternity is confirmed, the mother can ask the court to make a child support order and the child’s father can seek custody and visitation of his son or daughter.

If a mother is seeking child support, paternity has to be established first. While a presumed father can voluntarily give the mother cash payments, the court cannot get involved and the father technically has no rights until paternity is confirmed legally.

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