What Is a Presumed Parent?

You might come across the term “presumed parent” if, during a divorce case, one spouse contests the other’s parentage. Issues relating to presumed parenthood generally don’t arise in cases in which the couple married first and then had children. Unless a parent still contests parentage, parentage is an assumed fact based on the timeline of the family. However, if you had a child prior to marrying your spouse, you may find yourself facing a contested parentage dispute during a divorce proceeding.

About Presumed Fatherhood

In California divorce or dependency cases, the courts may need to determine the identities of a child’s parents for legal reasons. Establishing parentage may be necessary if there is some debate about the child’s birth – generally, debates regarding fatherhood of the child. When married parents give birth to a child, California laws presume that the married couple are the parents. Unless one of the spouses states otherwise, the child’s birth certificate will have the names of the presumed parents, or the married mother and father.

A presumed parent receives all legal rights and responsibilities for the child. In terms of fatherhood, a presumed father is one who has come forward to demonstrate his full commitment to the role’s responsibilities. This means the father has expressed a willingness to take care of the child emotionally, financially, and otherwise. Most fathers wishing to become presumed parents do so early after the birth. The same is true for a mother who wishes to establish the father’s presumed parenthood for legal or child support reasons.

If parents aren’t married at the time of a birth, the law does not assume parentage. This does not mean fathers lose their legal rights as parents; however, they may need to establish parentage through other means. Unmarried fathers may be presumed, biological, alleged, reputed, or putative based on the circumstances. To further complicate the matter, the biological father of the child might not be the presumed father. A father must establish both biological paternity and presumed paternity. It is possible to establish presumed paternity without being a child’s biological father.

Presumed Parenthood and Child Support

Presumed parenthood is a common issue in divorce and child support/custody cases where one or both spouses contest parentage. If a spouse does not have parentage over a child, he or she may not need to pay child support. Therefore, it is often in a spouse’s best interests to establish the other’s parentage to receive the support payments. Establishing paternity is a first step toward receiving a child support settlement. California Family Code also states that establishing parentage is good for childhood development.

The court has a duty to get to the bottom of parentage in any divorce case involving children. This generally involves the court asking questions as to the dates of the marriage and the birth of any children. If the dates align and no one contests, the courts will presume both spouses’ parentage. Otherwise, it may be necessary to establish parentage through a paternity test or other means. Again, biological paternity does not necessarily equal parentage. If it is not clear who is responsible for the child’s wellbeing, the case may require a declaration of paternity.

A declaration can come from the biological parent or a person who wishes to voluntarily declare parentage. A voluntary declaration of paternity creates presumed fatherhood. Establishing paternity as soon as possible is important for the fate of your divorce case as well as permanency for the child. It is generally in a child’s best interests for the parents to establish presumed parenthood right away. Contact a lawyer for more information.