A paternity case is a legal action in which the judge hears evidence and issues an order establishing who a child’s legal parents are. If you are seeking to establish paternity, or contest another party’s attempts to question paternity, the experienced Orange County paternity lawyers at Brown & Dahan can help. We focus our practice exclusively on family law, and will help you fight to protect your rights and those of your child.


When two people are the possible biological parents of a child, California law presumes that when those people are married or domestic partners, the husband is the father and the wife is the mother. In fact, even if a marriage is not valid, a man will be presumed to be the father of a child if he attempted to marry the mother. He will also be presumed to be the father if he married the child’s mother after the baby was born and agreed to have his name on the birth certificate. If someone welcomes a child into his home and acts as if the child is his own, the court can find the man a legal father even if he is later found not to be the biological father in a process called “parentage by estoppel.”

Paternity can be established two ways when parents of a child are not married. The first way is for both parents to sign a voluntary Declaration of Paternity. The second way is to ask the court for an order. Although the latter are commonly called “paternity” cases, there are instances in which a mother may need to establish parentage as well. At Brown & Dahan, we can help you bring a Complaint to Establish Parental Relations, which can initiate a court case to establish parentage for either parent.


Establishing legal paternity or parentage can be critical to a child’s well being over time. A court will only orderchild custodychild visitation, or child support if parentage is established. When one parent does not admit parentage, the court can order the person to submit to genetic testing to make a determination. If the father of a child has not been married to the mother, but knows he is the biological father, he doesn’t have rights (or responsibilities) vis-à-vis the child until he has his paternity established by law.


A parent who has legally established parentage can request custody or visitation from the court. He or she also becomes responsible for supporting the child or children financially and emotionally. For example, if the custodial parent must get a job or go to school, both parents will be responsible in equal part for the childcare costs that result. Conversely, unless a will or trust is written that specifies otherwise, a child will inherit from a parent only if the parentage is legally recognized.

Once paternity is established, a child is also entitled to legal documentation identifying his or her parents, access to family medical records and history, health and life insurance from either parent, and the right to receive social security benefits if they are available. The court may also make orders for child support, reimbursement of pregnancy and labor expenses, and health insurance.

The experienced and knowledgeable Orange County family law attorneys at Brown & Dahan can help you bring or contest a paternity suit, or otherwise negotiate on your behalf with the other party in a parentage dispute. We are dedicated solely to family law, and know how to seek the best possible legal outcome for you and your loved ones. Contact us at (949) 724-8857 or via our online form.