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Law Offices of Benita Ventresca408-395-8822
20 S. Santa Cruz Ave., Suite 212, Los Gatos, CA 95030
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Mediation and Litigation

Child Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents

Posted on in Child Custody and Visitation

California child custody attorney, California family law attorneyEstablishing Parentage

California law automatically assumes both parents are the biological parents if they are married at the time of the birth. However, this is not true if the parents are not married to each other. Parentage of the child must first be established before any custody issues are pursued. This may be done simply by filing a voluntary Declaration of Paternity. This may have been done at the hospital at the time of birth, which would have put both parents’ names on the birth certificate. If it was not completed immediately, it may be done later. This form may be picked up and filled out at any of the following locations:

  • Local Child Support Agency (LCSA),
  • Registrar of Births,
  • Family Law Facilitator’s office at your local Superior Court, or
  • Welfare offices.

The form may be completed at these offices or must be signed and witnessed by a notary public. Once this form is completed, it is not effective until it has been filed at the California Department of Child Support Services Paternity Opportunity Program (POP).  

Custody Decisions

When a case is filed to establish parentage, the court can create custody or visitation orders, just the same way the orders would be created if you had been married. A family law case is required to be opened to obtain a court order establishing parentage, whether by agreement of the parents or by contested litigation, and to obtain custody and visitation orders. 

It is in everyone’s best interest to be civil to each other during any split. Not only is it beneficial to the child in the future to have witnessed that even in a difficult situation, civility is always the best course of action, but it can also keep a little more money in your wallet and some time out of court. If you can reach an agreement between the two of you, then you may be able to have your agreement approved without ever having a hearing.

However, if you cannot come to an agreement, you will be required to attend mediation in order to help you reach one. Mediation is generally successful in most cases. If you cannot reach agreement in mediation, there are further steps that must be taken before the court will make a final decision regarding custody and visitation in a litigated case. The court has discretion to make orders which are in the best interests of the child

Determining child custody is likely to be a stressful and emotional situation for everyone involved. It may be helpful to have a lawyer on your side to guide you through the process and answer your questions in detail every step of the way. At the the Ventresca Firm, we have over 35 years of experience providing outstanding service to clients in the Los Gatos, San Jose, and Santa Clara County, California. If you are interested in seeking more information regarding custody and would like to speak to a San Jose, CA family lawyer, please contact our office today at 408-395-8822 for your free initial consultation.



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20 S. Santa Cruz Ave., Suite 212
Los Gatos, CA 95030

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