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3699 Wilshire Blvd. Ste 700, Los Angeles, CA 90010 Mon-Fri 9am-6pm +1-213-387-4508

Paternal Rights vs Parental Rights: What’s the Difference?

The concepts of parental rights and paternal rights are closely linked yet distinct. It’s crucial to grasp the nuances distinguishing them. Parental rights are the privileges and responsibilities held by a child’s legally recognized parents. In contrast, paternal rights are specific to the child’s legally recognized father.

Establishing Paternity is a Prerequisite for Rights

Before attempting to assert any form of paternal or parental rights over a child, establishing paternity is a mandatory step. There are instances where paternity is clear and undisputed. For example, if you were married to the mother at the time your child was conceived and born, and your name is on the birth certificate, your paternity might be straightforward.

However, in situations where the parents were not married during the child’s conception or birth, or if the father’s name is absent from the birth certificate, paternity can become a contentious issue. A legal determination may be required to establish if there is adequate evidence to confirm you as the father.

Courts may mandate DNA testing to verify biological connections to the child.

Yet, paternity encompasses more than biological ties. Legally, you could be recognized as the child’s father even without a biological link. Essentially, paternity legally binds you to both the rights and obligations of raising a child. Without this legal acknowledgment, neither responsibilities nor rights to the child are conferred upon you.

Equal Parental Rights for Both Parents

Once you’re legally identified as the father, you share identical parental rights with the mother. These rights are integral to the child’s upbringing, entailing the duty to cater to the child’s needs and safeguard their welfare.

Parental rights empower you to make critical decisions for your child, including:

  • Medical care choices
  • Educational and schooling decisions
  • Extracurricular participation
  • Religious upbringing
  • Residential arrangements

Typically, these decisions are made jointly with the mother, ensuring both parents have an equal stake in the child’s upbringing. Disagreements are usually settled amicably or, failing that, through legal intervention.

Notably, the existence of parental rights is not contingent on fulfilling parental duties. Even if you neglect your parental obligations, your rights remain intact unless legally terminated, which also absolves you of further responsibilities.

The Legal Weight of Paternity and Parental Rights

Although they may seem similar, significant legal distinctions exist between paternal and parental rights. The law staunchly defends both, making it challenging to overturn a fatherhood determination or disrupt recognized parental rights without substantial justification.

Understanding these distinctions is vital for navigating the complex terrain of family law, ensuring that the rights and duties associated with raising a child are appropriately recognized and upheld.

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Charles M. Green is Certified as a California Family Law Specialist through the Board of Legal Specialization of the State Bar of California. He has worked extensively in both financial accounting fields and as a litigation attorney specializing in Family Law Cases. He is also diversely experienced in a number of other legal practice areas of importance to individuals, families, and businesses.

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