In paternity or parentage cases, the courts must determine who a child’s legal parents are. This applies mainly to unmarried couples, as parentage is generally assumed with children born to married couples or legal domestic partners. 

Biological fathers of children born outside of marriage do not have legal rights or responsibilities for those children until parentage has been established by the courts. Custody, visitation rights and child support are all dependent on paternity. Any person who is a legal parent of a child must, by law, provide financial support for that child.

In some cases, the court may identify an individual as a legal parent even if he or she is not biologically related to the child. Paternity may be established either through court order or when both members of a couple agree to the designation by signing a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage or Paternity and filing it with the California Department of Child Support and Services.

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