Understanding presumed parentage

On Behalf of | Jan 9, 2020 | Family Law

In the middle of a divorce, you may hear the term “presumed parent.” It is likely to occur if you or the child’s mother contests parentage. In child custody cases throughout California, presumed parentage is a common issue. 

Sometimes, the law presumes who a parent is. For instance, if you and the child’s mother are a married couple when she delivers the child or if you attempted to marry the mother before the child’s birth, the law may see you as the father. 

When to establish paternity 

If your wife has a child while married, but the child is not yours, you only have two years to seek a paternity test. If you do not request a test or challenge the paternity, then the child is legally your responsibility. 

You may also fall under the concept of parentage by estoppel. This occurs when you treat the child as yours. Because you welcomed the child into your home, treated him or her as you would a child of your own, you may be liable for custody and support. You do not have to be the biological father for the court to treat you as the legal parent. If a court establishes you as legally responsible and you then demand a genetic test, it may already be too late. 

How to establish paternity 

To establish whether you are the biological father, you can request a genetic test. With any uncertainty, you have the right to make this demand. Because every person’s DNA is unique, DNA helps  establish who a child’s biological parents are. 

When the court orders genetic testing, it will also order where you must complete the test. Courts rarely accept private genetic testing. At your test, you will use a sterile swab to gather saliva from the inside of your mouth. The test compares your DNA to the child’s DNA.