Do mothers and fathers have equal rights in Paternity Cases? Yes, but a father’s rights to paternity must be earned.
In California an unwed father does not have any statutory right to assert rights to custody, visitation, or even to prevent the adoption out of a child unless he has first established a parental relationship with the child that gives him (and the child) a constitutional due process and equal protection right to continue or further develop that relationship between father and child under the 14th Amendment.
For an unwed father’s relationship to “ripen into a constitutional right” he must prove that he promptly came forward and demonstrated a full commitment to his parental responsibilities. The mere existence of a biological link does not merit constitutional protection. The U.S. Constitution only will supersede California statutes to protect the unwed father’s relationship if that father has actively developed the parental relationship by actually stepping up to participate in the rearing of his child and act toward the child as a father.
This rule of law is best stated in a 6-1 California Supreme Court opinion authored by Justice Stanley Mosk in 1995 entitled Adoption of Michael H., 10 Cal.4th 1043, 1052.