Child Support, When Parents Are Not Married

To officially establish a parent-child relationship between a child (or children) and unmarried parents, a case may be filed under the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA).

Regardless of whether the parents of the child were married or unmarried, the Uniform Parentage Act (2002) provides for:
– Establishment of paternity through voluntary acknowledgement (Voluntary Declaration of Paternity) or establishment of paternity through adjudication
– Genetic testing standards – set at 99% probability based on appropriate calculations.

The UPA helps define who the legal parents are. A legal mother traditionally was the one who carries a child to birth. But it can now also be one whose egg was fertilized, or who has adopted a child, or who is under a gestational agreement (also known as a surrogate agreement). With these last three examples, the woman who carried the child to birth would not be considered the legal mother. Also, a 2005 California Supreme Court case found that a child may have two legally recognized parents of the same gender. Elisa B. v. Superior Court (2005) 37 C4th 108, 105.

Things can be a little more obscure in determining the legal father. Under the UPA, genetic testing can be ordered by the court without initiating paternity litigation. To justify genetic testing, there simply must be a reasonable probability of sexual contact between the presumed father and mother. A presumed father may also seek genetic testing to prove that he is not the father.  The child, mother, father, a support agency, adoption agency, a representative for a deceased or incapacitated party, or intended parent under a gestational agreement may bring an action to determine parentage. A refusal to submit to genetic testing can result in an adjudication of parentage.

Once parentage is established, the court may make orders for child support, health insurance, child custody, visitation, name change, reimbursement of pregnancy and birth expenses, and restraining orders. Establishing parentage is also used to secure benefits, such as social security, veteran’s, and inheritance rights.

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