By: Cristin Lowe
Halle Berry and Gabriel Aubry’s custody battle recently became public knowledge, despite Aubry having filed to establish his parental rights over the couple’s two-year-old daughter Nahla back in December 2010. Even though there appears to be no dispute that Aubry is Nahla’s biological father, since Berry and Aubry were never married, he can only be legally recognized as the father if paternity is established. By filing to establish paternity, Aubry seeks to share joint custody of Nahla and establish a formal parenting plan.
Aubry apparently signed a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity, which creates a presumption that he is Nahla’s father. Furthermore, Nahla already bears Aubry’s last name. Although initiating custody proceedings may seem repetitive and unnecessary because he is presumed to be the father, shares the same last name as Nahla, and is publicly accepted as Nahla’s father, Aubry is following proper legal procedure.
Berry issued a statement stating that she has serious concerns regarding Nahla’s well-being when in Aubry’s care. Sources claim that the only reason Aubry currently has any parenting time with Nahla is because there are no formal visitation orders yet.
In California, anytime a custody or visitation dispute occurs, the two parents are required to attend mediation prior to a judge issuing orders. Berry and Aubry are no exceptions to the rule. Without any orders, Berry would have a very difficult time successfully denying Aubry visitation. Based on the allegations regarding safety concerns, it is possible that the matter will be expedited through the court system in order to ensure that Nahla is safe and that any orders issued are in her best interests.
Establishing paternity involves determining who the father of the child is. The law always recognizes the mother of the child as a parent. But if the mother and father were not married when the child was born, then the law only recognizes the father if paternity is legally established. Paternity gives your child the same benefits and rights as those children born to parents who are married. These include:
- Legal proof of both the father’s and mother’s identities.
- Family medical history information, in case of inherited health problems.
- The father’s name on the birth certificate.
- Life or medical insurance from either parent (if they have insurance).
- Financial support from each parent.
Whether or not a child’s parents are legally together at the time of birth, they can sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity to legally determine the identity of the child’s father. If the parents are in disagreement about the identity of the father, any man who believes he may be a child’s biological father is entitled, under California law, to a DNA paternity test (by blood or saliva) to legally prove his identity.
Establishing paternity will be very important for a child if his or her parents become separated, divorced, or were never married—especially if the child’s father wants to ensure that he has custody and visitation rights. It also allows the child to be legally entitled to receive child support and gives a father the right to make certain legal decisions regarding his child. In California, there is no statute of limitations for establishing paternity.
A child’s parents may also want to establish paternity in the event that there is a disagreement over the father’s identity. A person may deny that he is the child’s father, and filing a paternity lawsuit can resolve this dispute, ensure that the child’s rights are taken care of, and require the child’s father to meet his financial and legal obligations to the child. Should the case go to trial, a California Superior Court will hear the case.
Should you decide to go through the courts to establish paternity, you will have to file a Complaint to Establish Parental Relationship. A Judgment, reached either by agreement between both parties, by default, or after the trial, will be issued by the court.