California Court Discusses Setting Aside an Acknowledgement of Paternity

Generally, when a party files a paternity action, it is because the child’s mother and purported father disagree over the child’s parentage. In some instances, though, both parties will acknowledge a child’s paternity and will file legal documents stating as such. While they have the right to do so, such documents should not be entered into lightly as they can be difficult to set aside, as illustrated in a recent California paternity case. If you need assistance establishing or disputing a child’s paternity, it is in your best interest to speak to a San Diego paternity attorney to assess your options.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the father signed a voluntary declaration of parentage in 2007 after the birth of a child with his ex-wife. In 2020, the Los Angeles County Child Support Services Department initiated legal action to obtain a child support order from the father for the child. In response, the father filed an application to set aside the Parentage Declaration he signed years ago.

Reportedly, the father claimed that his request to set aside the declaration was based on numerous grounds, including fraud, material mistake of fact, his own mistake, and the failure of the hospital to adequately explain the form he signed. He also alleged that he was not the child’s biological father and offered DNA test results in support of his assertion. The Trial Court denied the father’s application, and he appealed.

Setting Aside an Acknowledgement of Paternity

The Court ultimately rejected the father’s appeal. When assessing the timeliness of the father’s request, the Court turned to the current Family Code, which required challenges to Parentage Declarations to be made within two years of filing. Since the father’s request was submitted in April 2021, well beyond the two-year limit, it was deemed untimely under the current law.

The Court also emphasized that the Parentage Declaration had the same legal force as a Court-issued judgment of parentage, and the provisions of the Family Code applicable from January 1, 2020, governed the father’s request. These provisions required the set-aside request to be filed within two years of the declaration’s effective date, which the father had not met. The Court noted that a prior judgment of parentage prevails, even if subsequent DNA testing disproves biological paternity.

Lastly, the Court ruled that it had no jurisdiction to decide the father’s challenge to the trial Court’s denial of his request to join the child’s unidentified biological father because the father had not timely filed an appeal from that decision.

Meet with an Experienced California Divorce Attorney

Establishing paternity is essential to determining parental rights and obligations, but it is important for anyone involved in a paternity dispute to understand the implications of filing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. If you have questions about your options with regard to paternity, it is prudent to meet with an attorney to discuss your options. The experienced San Diego divorce attorneys of Doppelt and Forney APLC can examine the facts of your case and develop a strategy to assist you in seeking a favorable outcome.  You can reach us through our online form or call us at 800-769-4748 to set up a free and confidential meeting.

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