Members of the military in California who have a child but who are not married need to make certain that they take steps to establish the child's paternity. If this is not done, the father cannot be named on the birth certificate. Without the father's name on the birth certificate, he can be hindered if there is a child custody issue. It is also important for the mother to have established paternity for the child to receive military benefits and child support.
For unmarried parents in California, paternity can be established via court order or if the father voluntarily signs the Declaration of Paternity. There must be qualified witnesses or a notary public for this to be legal at the time of the child's birth. Included in the establishment of paternity will be rights to receive life insurance, veterans' benefits, Social Security, access to family history and any inheritance. It is also beneficial for the child if they know who the parents are.
Military members do not have special circumstances when establishing paternity. They cannot be asked military personnel to pay child support without a court order, nor can they be ordered to submit to a DNA test. Under 42 U.S. Code § 659(i)(2), a court order is required before military pay can be garnished to provide child support.
Military members have the right to sign a Declaration of Paternity prior to the child's birth in the Paternity Opportunity Program. This is an accommodation given to members of the Armed Services. If there are orders that will prevent the father from being able to appear at the time of birth, this can be done. The signature has to be witnessed by a qualified person or a notary public. With the Declaration of Paternity, there must be a copy of the father's orders attached to it. The mother must retain the two documents until after the child's birth. Once the child is born, the mother and child's information will be completed and the mother will sign it in front of a witness or a notary.
With military members who have children prior to deployment, it can be a complicated issue when they are not married to the mother. The Paternity Opportunity Program is in place to help these parents. If there is an issue with anything regarding military benefits for a parent who is on active deployment, it is wise to get more information about all aspects of paternity and a child custody dispute.