In situations where a child is born, but the parents aren’t married to each other and one or both parents want to formally establish child custody, visitation, or support, they must file a paternity action. The paternity action process ultimately works similar to divorce when it comes to the determination of child custody and support.

Phases of a Paternity Action

  1. Petition to Establish a Parental Relationship is filed and served by one parent.
  2. The responding party must either admit to being the child’s parent or deny being the child’s parent and request a DNA test. (If one ignores the Petition, the court may find them to be the parent.)
  3. If a parental relationship is established (by agreement or DNA results), either parent may request a hearing regarding child custody, visitation, and child support.
  4. The parents must exchange financial information to determine child support and may also have interviews under oath to obtain relevant information.
  5. The parents are required to attend mediation to attempt to reach an agreement on custody and support.
  6. If the parents are unable to reach an agreement, the case will proceed to trial and the court will decide.
  7. Judgment will be filed based on the parents’ agreement or the court’s decision.

For more information on Parentage actions, check out our articles on children.

If you need assistance filing or responding to a California Paternity/Parentage action and are ready to get started, visit our “Get Started” page for the next steps.