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Can an Unmarried Mother Take her Child and Leave California?

On Behalf of | Jan 26, 2019 | Paternity

Can an unmarried mother take her child and leave California without the father’s permission?  While this is a complex legal question, the simple answer begins with “yes, unless the father of the child asserts his rights and paternity under California law.”  If this is the case, how does an unmarried father in California protect his custody rights and the parenting privileges to ensure that he can remain present in the child’s life?

First, a little history. When a child is born to a couple who is married, the State of California assumes the husband of the mother to be the baby’s biological father.  When a mother is unmarried, there is a process to legally establish “paternity” – the legal process which identifies the father of the child – after which the father may be granted child custody and parenting rights by a California Court.

If both unmarried parents sign the “Voluntary Declaration of Paternity” at the hospital, and it is properly filed with the appropriate agency, the State of California may recognize a man as the father of a child.  The father’s name will be listed on the birth certificate.

He is still required to seek specific orders from a California Court to establish custody, visitation and support.  Without these Court orders an unmarried father may not be able to stop the unmarried mother of his child from taking the baby and moving away.

If the mother of the child is not cooperative, or if time has passed since the child’s birth, the process of establishing paternity may become a bit more complex.  There is a legal process to establish DNA proof of paternity, after which the father can request Court orders regarding child custody, visitation and support.

Can an unmarried mother take her child and leave California without the father’s permission?  Generally speaking, yes, unless the father of the child asserts his rights in a paternity action.  The number of legal variables in these cases are numerous, but it is absolutely possible for an unmarried father to step forward, establish paternity and ask the court for legal custody, visitation and support rights.  If you are an unmarried father and have questions about a paternity related matter, we invite you to contact us or call 760-389-3927 to learn more about asserting your rights as the father of your child.