When a father knows or suspects that his ex girlfriend is pregnant, he has legal rights—providing he takes certain steps. He can sign a Declaration of Paternity voluntarily stating that he is the father (this would be filed with the Department of Child Support Services) or he can file a ‘paternity action’ in the family court. He can also ask the Child Support Agency to establish parentage. All of these actions would allow the father to establish himself as the father legally.
When there is a dispute as to fatherhood, a genetic test can be ordered. However, most tests are not attempted until the child is about 6 months old. When the parents are married, the spouse would be the presumed father until the biological father files an objection and requests a genetic test.
Once established legally, the father has rights even before the child is born. The father can accompany the mother to her doctor visits as long as she agrees to do so. If the mother wishes to put the child up for adoption, the father can oppose and the adoption would not go through. In addition, the father can pay for the mother’s medical care during the pregnancy. In California, a child support order can be requested for this purpose. Further, if the mother is drinking liquor or taking illegal drugs while pregnant, the father can report this to the appropriate agency. If the mother is considered unfit or irresponsible, the father may request to take Custody of the child when he/she is born.
It’s best that the father speak with a Legal Action Workshop family law attorney who can provide legal advice and guidance in cases where the rights of the father to an unborn child are in question. Simply call 1-800-HELP-444 …we’re here to help!