Unmarried new parents may sign a paternity form at the hospital immediately following the birth of their child. This form is called a Declaration of Paternity. Signing this form will make the process of legally establishing paternity easier and faster in most cases. A Declaration of Paternity may also be signed by parents after they leave the hospital.
In an effort to create a legal "link" between unmarried fathers and their children, the California Department of Social Services joined other states, in a partnership with licensed hospitals and clinics with birthing facilities, to establish the Paternity Opportunity Program (POP). This voluntary in-hospital paternity acknowledgment program, implemented in January of 1995, involves approximately 360 of California's licensed hospitals and clinics. The program has since been expanded to prenatal clinics, county welfare offices, local vital records offices, and courts.
As a result of federal welfare reform legislation effective January 1st, 1997, if the parents of a child are not legally married, the father's name will NOT be added to the birth certificate unless they:
- Sign a Declaration of Paternity in the hospital, or
- Sign the form later or legally establish paternity through the courts and pay a fee ($19.00) to amend the birth certificate.
Signing a Paternity Declaration
A signed Declaration of Paternity states that the man is the father and has the same effect as a court order establishing paternity for the child. If the child does not live with you, and a court action is filed, you may be ordered by the court to pay child support. A court action must be filed to deal with the issues of custody, visitation or child support.
You have the right to a trial in court to decide the issue of paternity; to notice on any hearing on the issue of paternity; to have the opportunity to present your case to the court, including the right to present and cross examine witnesses; to have an attorney represent you; or to have an attorney appointed to represent you if you cannot afford one in an action filed by the Department of Child Support Services. By signing this declaration, you are, by your choice, giving up all of these rights.
If either of you later change your mind about signing the form, you must complete a form to rescind or cancel the Declaration of Paternity and file it with the California Department of Child Support Services within 60 days from the date you sign this form. You can get a rescission form by contacting our office. For more information, view How Parents Can Rescind or Cancel a Filed Declaration of Paternity on the California Department of Child Support Services web site.
This form may be challenged in court only in the first two years after the child's birth, by using blood and genetic tests that prove the man is not the biological father. It also may be overturned if the father or mother is able to prove that she/he signed the form because of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact.
If either or both of you are under the age of 18, a Declaration of Paternity will not establish paternity until 60 days after both of you are age 18 or are emancipated. If you wish to legally establish paternity before both of you become adults, you should consult an attorney or contact our office.
The Declaration of Paternity is a legal document that will establish paternity. You do not have to complete or sign this form. If any part of this form does not make sense to you, contact our office or a lawyer before signing the form.
For more information about the establishment of paternity or child support, please contact us at 1-866-901-3212 (toll-free).