Does a Father Have to Pay Child Support if He Was Never Married to the Mother?

In California, when a married woman has a baby, the law automatically assumes the woman’s husband is her child’s biological and legal father. As such, the woman’s husband has the same rights and responsibilities toward his child as the mother – he’s expected to financially support his child, provide food, shelter, clothing, medical care, etc.

But what if the child’s mother and father were never married? In the eyes of the law, a child who is born out of wedlock does NOT have a legal father. This means that unless paternity is established, the child’s biological father has zero rights and responsibilities toward his child.

Here’s what this means:

  • The child’s mother cannot seek child support
  • The family court cannot issue a child support order
  • The father cannot demand to see his child
  • The father cannot ask the court for custody or visitation
  • The family court cannot issue a child custody order
  • The child has no inheritance rights from their father
  • The child cannot receive Social Security benefits on their father’s earning record, including survivors’ benefits

What if Paternity is Established?

What happens when paternity is established? “If a person is established as a legal parent of a child, that person MUST financially support the child. It is a crime for a legal parent to fail to support his or her child. A legal parent also has the right to get custody or visitation rights related to the child,” according to the California Courts.

“How is paternity established in California?” Generally, paternity is established in one of two ways: 1) by signing a voluntary Declaration of Paternity form at the hospital shortly after the child’s birth or 2) by getting a court-ordered DNA test (after the baby is born).

The California Courts say: “In general, a man who is being told that he is the father of a child has the right, if he is not completely sure he is the father, to request genetic (DNA) testing to find out for sure if he is the father of that child.”

Need help with paternity, child custody, or child support case? Contact Burch Shepard Family Law Group at (949) 565-4158 for a consultation.