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Collaboration Between the Court and IV-D Agencies in California

Commissioner John Schroeder
Santa Clara County, CA

While dependency courts may make findings that a man is the "presumed father" or the "de facto father" in a case, there may be lingering doubt as to whether that man is the actual biological father. This doubt may impair the man's interest in becoming engaged in the child's life. Dependency courts are very concerned—and rightly so—with the welfare of the child. This concern sometimes means that the actual issue of parentage is overlooked and no judicial judgment of paternity is made in the dependency action.

As an IV-D child support commissioner, I will not order child support unless there is a judgment of parentage. Also, since approximately 25% of the men who are named as the father by the mother turn out not to be the biological father, it is no wonder that men request DNA tests. The cost of these tests therefore becomes an issue.

The Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) does not charge for DNA testing in California in cases in which it is involved. If there has been no prior judgment of paternity and no marital presumption applies, DCSS will file an action and pay for DNA tests if welfare is being paid to the custodial person (referrals come from social services). Additionally, the parties can directly request that DCSS open a case.

Note that DCSS will not pay for the DNA test unless there is aid being paid or unless a case has been opened by either party with DCSS. All one needs to do to open a case is fill out paperwork at the local child support agency’s office.

It is not uncommon that once the man is determined to be the biological father, he wants visitation rights. The Family Court Facilitator's Office in each county in California can assist in filing such applications on behalf of the father. Now that's engagement in the child's life!

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