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How to Disestablish Paternity in California

One of the most popular topics on the syndicated talk show “Maury” is paternity testing and the big reveal of the test results.

Paternity

For years, these reveals have entertained audiences while leaving the guests equally vindicated and disappointed, but the process of establishing and disestablishing paternity is serious, sometimes complicated business.

Paternity establishment in California is relatively straightforward: Sign a Declaration of Paternity, or obtain a court order. It’s the disestablishment of paternity that can become tricky.

Disestablishment is easiest in the California court system when parentage has not yet been established. In these cases, a paternity test can be requested.

Let’s say your ex-girlfriend has you served a Summons and Complaint Regarding Parental Obligations or a Supplemental Complaint by an area child support agency. The court gives you 30 days to request a paternity test. If you don’t respond to the summons and take a paternity test, the court could establish you as the legal parent.

In cases where you and the other parent signed a Declaration of Paternity and now one of you has had a change of heart, there may be a way to reverse it if:

  • It has been less than 60 days since you voluntarily signed the Declaration of Paternity.
  • There are no court cases (such as child support) using the Declaration of Paternity.

Your first step is to complete a form called the Declaration of Paternity Rescission in an effort to cancel the voluntary declaration.

Another possibility if more than 60 days have passed or there is a pending court case is to go to court to request that the Declaration of Paternity be canceled.

There are two situations in which it can be nearly impossible to disestablish paternity:

  • Paternity has been established via a court order.
  • The child was born during a marriage and the legal husband and wife are presumed to be the legal parents.

In cases of marriage, even a paternity test to prove another man outside the marriage fathered a child would not be enough to override the “conclusive presumption” that the married couple are the parents, according to the California courts.

There is a great deal of information online about disestablishing paternity, but because it can be a complicated process, consulting an attorney who specializes in family law is recommended. This is particularly true if you are involved in a contested case.

We invite you to contact our office today if you are involved in a paternity case and need legal guidance.

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