Rights of Fathers and Other Parents

If you are the father of the child, a non-biological parent, the partner or spouse of the child’s biological parent, or in some other way believe you have or should have parental rights as to the child in the case, read through the information on this page to find out more.

The legal terms used for every possible situation can be complicated and it is important you let the social worker and the court know that you are the child’s parent if you want to be included in the child’s dependency case as such.

Parentage and Paternity

Parentage is a word used in dependency court to refer to a child’s legal parents. Sometimes it is referred to as “paternity.”  There are several kinds of legal parents in dependency court and you may qualify as a legal parent even if you are not biologically related to the child.

The court is required to ask the parent who shows up at the first court hearing about the identity and location of anyone who may qualify as a father or other parent to the child. The court must then send that person notice of future court hearings.

In dependency court, persons (other than the biological mother) who may be a parent), are put into three different groups:

  1. alleged parent,

  2. biological fathers, and

  3. presumed parent.

Your rights to visitation and reunification services depend on which group you fit into. Alleged parents have the fewest rights and presumed parents have the most rights.

Alleged Parents

Most fathers or other parents in dependency cases start off as alleged fathers or parents. You are considered to be an alleged father or parent if the mother of your child has told the social worker that you are the father or other parent. You are also considered an alleged father or other parent if you show up to the first hearing and say that you are the parent of the child.

Alleged parents have very few rights in dependency cases. As an alleged parent you have the right to notice of the dependency hearings and you have the right to prove that you are a presumed parent (discussed below). You do not have the right to custody or reunification services. Your relatives will not be given special consideration for placement of your child.

Biological fathers

You are a biological father if a DNA test shows that you are the father of your child or you have a judgment of paternity from a family law court. As a biological father, you have the right to notice of dependency hearings and the right to show that you are a presumed father. The court can also give you reunification services (these are services to help you get your child back into your care) if the court believes that giving you services would be best for your child. Your relatives will also get special consideration when the social worker decides where your child should live.

Presumed Parents

You can qualify as a presumed parent in several different ways. These are the most common ways to show the court you are the presumed parent:

  1. Your name is on your child’s birth certificate,

  2. There is a family court order that establishes parental relationship (click to learn about Parentage in family court), or

  3. You have acted like the child is your own and raised the child as your own.

If you are a presumed parent you have the right to reunification services (these are services that help you get your child back into your care), visitation with your child, and custody of your child. Your relatives will also get special consideration when the social worker decides where your child should live.

Keep in mind that the presumed parent category does not necessarily apply only to men. If you and your partner are, or were, raising your child together you may qualify as a presumed parent. If this situation describes you, talk to a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, click to find legal help.

If you are a family member or close family friend who has been caring for a child that now has a dependency case, you may qualify as what is called a “de facto parent.” Click for more information about de facto parents.

© 2017 Judicial Council of California