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San Jose Divorce Attorney > Blog > Fathers Rights > Legal Paternity vs. Biological Paternity

Legal Paternity vs. Biological Paternity


In the realm of family law, paternity issues can often present some of the most challenging cases, particularly when legal paternity and biological paternity do not align. This discrepancy can have significant implications for child support, custody, inheritance, and other legal rights. At Foster Hsu, LLP, our lawyers work with our clients to help them navigate this complex legal terrain.

Understanding Paternity in California

Legal Paternity
Legal paternity is not always a direct reflection of biological relationships. It is established through marriage, by signing a voluntary declaration of paternity, or as a result of a court order. In California, if a man is married to the mother at the time of a child’s birth or shortly thereafter, he is presumed to be the child’s legal father, regardless of biological connection.

Biological Paternity
Biological paternity refers to the genetic connection between a father and his child. This can be established through DNA testing, which is considered definitive proof of a biological relationship. However, establishing biological paternity does not automatically confer legal rights or responsibilities.

Cases of Discrepancy

Discrepancies between legal and biological paternity can arise in several situations, such as when a child is conceived through extramarital relationships, or when a child born during a marriage is biologically connected to another man. These cases require careful legal navigation.

  1. Challenging Legal Paternity
    If a man discovers he is not the biological father of a child he has legally recognized, he may challenge his paternity in court. However, this process is time-sensitive. California law requires that a paternity challenge be made within a reasonable time after the father knew or should have known of a potential issue regarding paternity. After a child is two years of age, the challenge may be barred by statute, emphasizing the importance of timely legal action.
  2. Establishing Biological Paternity
    A biological father wishing to establish legal rights to a child must file a petition with the court to establish paternity. This is often accompanied by a request for DNA testing. If the tests confirm biological paternity, the court will decide based on the best interests of the child whether to recognize the man as the child’s legal father, which may include custodial rights and responsibilities.

Legal Implications

The legal implications of these cases are profound. They can affect:

  • Child Support: A man determined to be the legal father is responsible for child support, even if he is not the biological father, unless the court rules otherwise.
  • Custody and Visitation: Legal fathers have the right to seek custody and visitation, whereas biological fathers without legal paternity do not have these rights unless they seek legal recognition.
  • Inheritance: Legal paternity affects a child’s rights to inherit from their parents under California law.

Reach Out To Foster Hsu, LLP in San Jose, California Today

Navigating the discrepancies between legal and biological paternity requires a nuanced understanding of family law. For those facing such complexities, it is essential to seek experienced legal counsel to explore all available options and implications. At Foster Hsu, LLP, our San Jose fathers rights lawyers are dedicated to guiding our clients through the intricacies of paternity law, ensuring that their rights and the best interests of the involved children are protected. If you are dealing with a paternity issue, contact us for comprehensive legal support tailored to your unique situation.


selfhelp.courts.ca.gov/parentage/start-case#:~:text=To%20start%20a%20 parentage%20case,other%20court%20cases%20involving%20them

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