Establishing paternity is the process of determining the legal father of a child.
Without the establishment of paternity, the father does not have the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent. Establishing paternity is necessary before custody, visitation and child support issues can be addressed by the court. Paternity can be established by signing a Declaration of Paternity form or by asking the court to enter a judgment of paternity.
If a father becomes involved with his child early on, he is more likely to continue to care for that child both financially and emotionally in the future.
Fathers play a vital role in the lives of children. Recent studies have shown an undeniable link between the father's absence and childhood poverty, teenage pregnancy, family violence, drug and alcohol abuse, school failure, and welfare dependency.
What is the Paternity Opportunity Program (POP)?
California's Paternity Opportunity Program provides new unmarried parents the opportunity to voluntarily acknowledge paternity (legal paternity) by signing a Declaration of Paternity.
California State statutes were implemented on January 1, 1995 by requiring birthing hospitals and authorized county agencies to provide parents with the opportunity to acknowledge paternity. California Family Code Section 7570 was amended to provide specific requirements for voluntary acknowledgments of paternity.
In an effort to create a legal link between unmarried fathers and their children, the California Department of Child Support Services joined other states in a partnership with licensed hospitals and clinics with birthing facilities to establish the Paternity Opportunity Program (POP).
Important information for unmarried parents
As a result of federal welfare reform legislation effective January 1, 1997, if the parents of a child are not legally married, the father's name will NOT be added to the child's birth certificate unless they:
Sign a Declaration of Paternity at the hospital, or
Sign the form later, or legally establish paternity through the courts and pay a fee to amend the birth certificate.
Who can witness a declaration of paternity?
According to California Law, a completed Declaration of Paternity must have both parents' signatures properly witnessed, and be filed with the California Department of Child Support Services before paternity can be legally established. Qualified staff members from the following organizations are acceptable witnesses:
Birthing Hospitals (after birth)*
Local Offices of Child Support Services*
Family Law Facilitators*
Local Registrars of Birth and Deaths*
Local Welfare Offices*
* These agencies will witness the paternity declaration free of charge.
** Notary Publics may charge a fee for their services.
What is the declaration of paternity form?
The Declaration of Paternity (CS 909) form is a legal form that, when signed by both parents, establishes that the man is the legal father of the named child. Signing the form will legally establish the man as the child's father without having to go to court. Signing a Declaration of Paternity is voluntary.
The purpose of the Declaration of Paternity is to legally establish the paternity of a child when the mother and father are not married to each other. Only biological parents are allowed to sign the declaration. Once the declaration is signed, paternity is established upon the filing of the declaration with the California Department of Child Support Services (CDCSS) - POP Unit
After both parents sign the Declaration of Paternity and it is filed with the CDCSS, it legally establishes a parent-child relationship between the father and the child. Once paternity is established, the father will have the legal rights and financial responsibilities of a parent under California law. Signing the form will give the father parental rights to seek custody or visitation in court actions, and, when appropriate, to be consulted in adoption proceedings for the child.
What are the benefits of signing a declaration of paternity?
The benefits of signing the Declaration of Paternity include:
Allowing the father to add his name to the child's birth certificate
Eliminating the need to go to court by establishing the man as the child's legal father
Enabling the child to receive health care benefits through the legal father's health care coverage, and if eligible, enabling the child the ability to receive Social Security survivor or military dependent benefits
Granting the child the right to claim inheritance rights
Meeting welfare eligibility requirements
How can parents rescind or cancel a filed declaration of paternity?
Any parent who signed a Declaration of Paternity (CS 909) can use a Declaration of Paternity Rescission Form (CS 915) to cancel or rescind a Declaration of Paternity within 60 days of signing the Declaration of Paternity, unless a court order for custody, visitation or child support has been entered.
Only one parent needs to sign and file the rescission form, but the other parent must be formally notified by certified mail.
Either parent wishing to cancel a filed Declaration of Paternity must follow the steps on the checklist contained on the Rescission Form for the Declaration of Paternity (CS 909) when completing the rescission process.
The purpose of the Rescission Form is to cancel the legal father-and-child relationship created by the Declaration of Paternity. This form must be signed before a Notary Public and filed with CDCSS-POP Unit within 60 days of the date that the declaration was signed. A letter to the other parent advising him/her that the declaration is being canceled must be sent certified mail, return receipt requested. A copy of the letter and receipt must be sent to the CDCSS-POP Unit, P.O. Box 419070, Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-9070.
If either party is a minor, the paternity declaration is not valid until 60 days after both parents turn 18
How can parents request a filed copy of the declaration of paternity form?
In accordance with state law, copies of filed Declarations of Paternity are available only to: Parents; the child; county child support services agencies; county welfare departments; county counsels; and the courts.