If you’re like many people, you’ve heard the term parentage by estoppel – but what does it mean in California, and how does it affect your child custody case?
What is Parentage by Estoppel in California?
Paternity is often assumed in California. That means the courts assume that the person involved in the child’s life is his or her father. Cases in which the court assumes paternity include:
- When the father was married to the child’s mother when the child was conceived or born.
- When the father attempted to marry the child’s mother when the child was conceived or born, but something made the marriage invalid.
- After the child was born, the father married the child’s mother and agreed to have his name put on the child’s birth certificate, or he agreed to support the child.
- After the child was born, the father openly treated the child as his own.
Parentage by estoppel doesn’t require a biological relationship. A father doesn’t have to be related by blood.
This is important to know if you’re working out a child custody agreement. Fathers who aren’t biologically related to a child may have rights when it comes to custody – and responsibilities when it comes to child support.
It’s called parentage by estoppel because once it’s established that the father held the child out to be his own, he can be held liable for child support.
What Does “Treating a Child as His Own” Mean?
A father who spends time with a child, or whose child calls him “Dad,” can be legally considered the child’s father. The adults in the situation hold out the child as theirs, and the father supports and fosters the relationship with that child.
The main idea behind parentage by estoppel is the child’s best interest. If a child has gone his or her entire life treating someone as a father – even if the person is not biologically related to the child – it’s typically best for the child to continue having that person as a father.
Related: Parentage in California
What About Establishing Parentage?
In California, a party can ask the court to establish parentage or sign a declaration of paternity form. This isn’t necessary when parentage is assumed (like in one of the situations listed above, such as when the father and mother are married when the child is conceived or born). However, it is necessary when the parents aren’t married – especially if the mother doesn’t want the father involved in the child’s life after a split.
Carrie and Bob aren’t married, and they break up before their child, Sarah, is born. Bob has to establish parentage if he wants to get child custody or visitation with Sarah. Otherwise, he has no claim to her.
If Bob doesn’t want to get custody or pay child support and denies that he’s Sarah’s father, Carrie has the right to ask the court to order him to submit to genetic testing.
Rights and Responsibilities After Establishing Parentage
When parents have been established legally, they have the following rights and responsibilities:
- The right to request parenting time
- The right to request custody orders
- The responsibility of paying child support
- The responsibility of paying healthcare costs (in some cases)
- The responsibility of paying child care costs (in some cases)
Parentage by Estoppel in California
Even if a father has openly treated the child as his own, it’s often still a good idea to establish parentage. (Again, though, it’s not necessary if the parents were married or parentage is otherwise assumed.)
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Parentage by Estoppel in California?
If you’re going through a divorce, or if you need to talk to a lawyer about parentage by estoppel in California, we may be able to help you. Call us right away at (209) 546-6870 or get in touch with a Stockton divorce attorney online to schedule a consultation today.