There was a time when paternity could not be proven, only assumed. A child's father was the person who acted as the father, whether he was a biological parent or not. Now that genetic testing is available and we can prove biological paternity, fathers no longer have the option to walk away from the responsibilities of parenthood. However, a father who has assumed the role of parent and is in fact not the biological father has the option to disprove biological paternity and absolve himself of the legal and financial burdens of fatherhood.


The Paternity Disestablishment Bill passed in 2006 allows a person proven through genetic testing not to be a child's father to vacate the parental responsibilities the law requires, including providing financial support until the age of majority and sharing parenting time.

If a previously established father is not the biological father, he can file a motion with the court to set aside the paternity judgment. Proof of paternity does not have to be submitted at this time and is ordered by the court at a later date.


Paternity is more than the sharing of DNA, and California law addresses many of the gray areas in the family code. A person has two years from the child's birth to file a motion to set aside the established paternity. If another man has been previously named as the child's father, he can give permission for the court to prove another's paternity. Alternatively, if a father is not the biological father but chooses to continue to act in every way as the child's father, the court can deem this to be in the child's best interest.

There are some scenarios in which the issue of paternity might be vague:

  • Adoption
  • Artificial insemination
  • Surrogate parenting
  • In these cases, the specific circumstances are considered in court along with the biological evidence of paternity and the child's best interests. While the financial responsibility to support a child rests with the biological father, most fathers still have the option to embrace the joys and challenges of parenthood or to walk away.

    If you need more information about establishing or disestablishing paternity, contact a fathers' rights attorney in the San Diego area.

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