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What is paternity and why is it important?

When it comes to family law issues, most individuals consider issues regarding their children to be the most important. Whether an individual is dealing with child custody and visitation, child support, or even property division, thinking of one's children can reshape how these critical issues are approached. For many Californians, though, these matters may not even be addressed until paternity is established.

Paternity is simply the process by which a man is deemed the legal father of a child. Although most people think of this as occurring via DNA testing, the truth of the matter is that paternity can be established as easily as signing an affidavit. DNA testing may become necessary when a child has a legal father, such as when a child is born in wedlock, but the mother believes that another man is the biological father.

Although establishing paternity isn't necessary, it can be critically important for those who are seeking to obtain certain legal rights. Fathers, for example, have no right to visitation with their children, nor can they seek custody, until paternity is established. Additionally, a child will not be able to receive certain benefits from his or her father unless paternity is established. These benefits may include Social Security death benefits, veteran's benefits, pensions, and even inheritances. On the other hand, a mother cannot seek child support from a child's father until paternity has been established.

Paternity issues can be quite complicated for a variety of reasons. Whether an individual is trying to establish paternity or challenge it, the stakes can be quite high for not only the adults involved, but also for the child. This is why it is critically important to have strong legal reasons for making certain requests. A competent family law attorney may be able to help craft legal arguments that support an individual's position and leaves him or her well-positioned to reach a favorable outcome.

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