Getting served with a petition to determine parental relationship can make a parent feel confused and attacked. Technically, if you are listed as the “Respondent” on the petition, you are getting sued! So why is your ex/co-parent suing you and what should you do about it?
What is a Petition to Determine Parental Relationship?
In California, parties who share a child together and are not married can file a petition to determine parental relationship (FL-200) in family court in order to commence a court case to get child custody orders and child support orders.
The petition is often referred to as a ‘paternity petition’ because the petition can also be used to legally determine or confirm the father of a minor child when the parents were not married or registered domestic partners at the time of the child’s birth.
Do I Have to Respond to a Petition to Determine Parental Relationship?
As with any other petition or complaint, once the respondent is served with a petition to determine parental relationship, he or she has thirty (30) days to file and serve a response (FL-220). The respondent is never really required to file an answer or response, however, it is NEVER advisable to ignore a lawsuit filed against you.
How Should I Respond to a Petition to Determine Parental Relationship?
If you aren’t sure that you are the parent of the child listed on the petition, then it is imperative that you file a response to the petition requesting that the court determine the child’s parentage. An example of how the response form should be completed in such a situation is shown below:
If you are not in agreement with the custody and/or visitation orders requested in the petition, then it is important to properly complete the responsive documents outlining the child custody and visitation orders you want the court to issue.
Remember, the orders requested in the petition and the response are not automatically issued by the court. These documents essentially just reserve each party’s right to seek those orders.
For example, a petition will often contain a request for sole legal and sole physical custody of a child to the petitioner, with visitation to the respondent. An example of what that looks like is shown below:
When a respondent is served with such a petition, he or she often panics and believes the other parent is trying to take the child away. That is not necessarily the case, however. The petitioner may simply be reserving the right to request such orders.
Ultimately, the way you respond to a petition to determine parental relationship can set the tone for your entire paternity and child custody case.
Drafting a response to a petition to determine parental relationship that is as successful as possible requires the insight of an attorney. We highly recommend connecting with an experienced paternity lawyer who has extensive knowledge drafting responses in paternity actions.