Frequently Asked Questions about Parentage

Parents 

1. What is Parentage?

This legal parent/child relationship can be based on:

  1. The “statutory marital presumption” meaning that if a heterosexual couple are married and living together both at the time of the child’s conception and birth, the law provides that the couple are the legal parents regardless of genetic relationship.
  2. A genetic relationship – if a DNA test proves the child shares DNA with an individual, that individual will be considered a legal parent.
  3. A court judgment applying any one of several legal parentage presumptions, including but not restricted to the marital presumption, genetic relationship, or an intended parentage relationship.
2. How is Parentage determined for unmarried or same-sex parents?

When parents are unmarried or in a same-sex relationship, parentage is not established automatically. In these situations, parentage may be established by signing a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP).  To qualify to sign a VDOP, one signer must be the parent who gave birth to the child, the other signer must be either: (1) The only possible father of the child who is not married to the birth parent; OR (2) Someone who is an intended parent of the child based on an assisted reproduction agreement and the child was conceived through assisted reproduction where the donor was not the spouse of the birth parent.

3. What is the Parentage Opportunity Program?

The Parentage Opportunity Program (POP) administers the Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP) process so a birth parent and other parent can establish legal parentage of their child free of charge.

Parents must use either the voluntary VDOP process offered through POP or a court process to establish parentage.  POP significantly decreases the time and money otherwise required to establish legal parentage through the court process.  In most cases, a signed and filed VDOP has the same force and effect as a judgment for parentage issued by a court.

4. How do I contact the Parentage Opportunity Program?

Parents and agencies can reach Parentage Opportunity Program staff Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. by phone and email. Our toll-free phone number is (866) 249-0773 (select option 3, and then select option 5), and email is askpop@dcss.ca.gov. Emails and voicemails left after business hours will be returned within three business days.

5. What if I want a genetic/DNA test before signing the Voluntary Declaration of Parentage?

POP is not involved in the genetic testing process. As POP is a voluntary program, if there is any doubt about who the parent of the child is, and you would like genetic testing; do not sign the VDOP, but instead ask for genetic testing.  Genetic testing may not be requested by the parents who signed the Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP) once it has been filed. Please contact your county’s local child support agency through the Statewide Customer Service Center phone line at (866) 901-3212 to request information regarding genetic testing.

6. Where can I get a blank copy of the Voluntary Declaration of Parentage?

Upon the birth of a child, parents will be provided an opportunity to complete a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP) at the birthing hospital. Parents may get a blank VDOP form from their local child support agency, local court (Family Law Facilitator), local registrar of births and deaths, and their local welfare office.  Parents may also contact POP at askpop@dcss.ca.gov to request a blank form. The VDOP is not available electronically. Therefore, you must provide POP with a complete mailing address. POP will only mail the VDOP to the address provided.

7. Is it too late to complete a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage once my baby and I have left the hospital?

No. A Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP) may be completed any time after the child’s birth, provided that none of the disqualifying circumstances described in the VDOP apply.

8. Who can witness the completion and signature of a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage?

In California, authorized witnesses from agencies such as birthing hospitals, family law facilitators, local registrars of births & deaths, local child support agencies, local welfare offices or notary public officials are qualified to witness a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP). When signing a VDOP outside the State of California, a notary public is the only permissible authorized witness, and a fee for notary services may be charged. If you live in another country and notary services are not available, the VDOP can be witnessed by your local Consulate’s Office.  A VDOP must be completed, signed by both parents with signatures properly witnessed, and filed with the California Department of Child Support Services before legal parentage is established.

9. How long does it take to process a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage?

Once the completed, signed and witnessed Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP) is received, POP takes an average of 14-21 business days to process the form. If this timeframe has passed, parents can call the program’s toll-free line at (866) 249-0773 for a status update to confirm the VDOP has been processed. Parents can also obtain a free, certified copy of the filed VDOP by submitting a Request for a Filed Declaration of Parentage (DCSS 0918) form.

10. Can I expedite a request for a Certified Copy of a filed Voluntary Declaration of Parentage?

No. Requests are fulfilled in the order they are received and all requests for certified copies are processed within 5 business days.

11. Can I complete a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage even though I live outside the State of California?

Eligible parents can complete a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP) even if they live outside of California, however each parent must have their signature on the VDOP witnessed by a notary public or if in another country, your local Consulate’s Office.

12. Is a completed Voluntary Declaration of Parentage recognized nationwide?

Federal law requires states to legally recognize an establishment of paternity from another state.  However, it is an open question whether one state will legally recognize the establishment of parentage from another state.  Please contact your local Family Law Facilitator for clarification regarding parentage establishment in your state.

13. I received notice that my Voluntary Declaration of Parentage is invalid. Can you tell me why?

POP returns a rejected Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP) with a letter stating the reason(s) the VDOP has been rejected and includes a blank VDOP to complete and re-submit for filing. Common errors that result in a rejected VDOP include: either parent not using an authorized witness, or an invalid notary certification.  If parents have additional questions regarding a rejected VDOP, they can call POP’s toll-free line at (866) 249-0773 for assistance.

14. How can I make corrections to a submitted Voluntary Declaration of Parentage?

No corrections or changes of any type may be made to a filed Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP). Within 60 days of the signing date of the VDOP, the attesting birth parent or other parent can complete and file a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage Rescission (form DCSS 0915) to legally cancel the VDOP unless a court order for custody, visitation, or child support has been entered in an action in which the signer seeking to cancel was a party. The rescission form can be found on this website at: https://childsupport.ca.gov/paternity-forms-and-information/

 

 

 

15. How do I get a copy of my filed Voluntary Declaration of Parentage?

To obtain a free, certified copy of a filed Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP), please submit a notarized Request for a Filed Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (form DCSS 0918) to:

Parentage Opportunity Program at P.O. Box 419070, Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-9070. 

Upon receipt, the request will be processed within 5 business days and mailed to the address provided on the form or faxed to the fax number provided on the form.

16. Will my wages be garnished if I complete the Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP)?

No, signing a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP) does not automatically initiate any wage garnishment or child support process. California Family Code Section 7572(b) contains important information on parents’ rights and responsibilities associated with signing a VDOP. For additional information regarding any financial aspect of the child support process, including questions regarding wage garnishment/child support, please contact your county local child support agency through the Statewide Customer Service Center phone line at (866) 901-3212.

17. Will filing a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage change the name on the birth certificate?

No, filing a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP) will not automatically change the name on a birth certificate. Please contact the California Department of Public Health, Office of Vital Records to obtain additional information regarding the process to change the name listed on a birth certificate. You may contact the Office of Vital Records at (916) 445-2684, by email at VRmail@cdph.ca.gov, or online at https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CHSI/Pages/Correcting-or-Amending-Vital-Records.aspx  

18. Can a same-sex couple sign a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage?

Effective January 1, 2020, California’s Uniform Parentage Act expands opportunities to utilize the Parentage Opportunity Program (POP), reflecting the diversity of today’s families.

The Uniform Parentage Act, as amended in 2018, permits different-sex parents or female same-sex parents who use assisted reproduction to use the Voluntary Declaration of Parentage process to establish legal parentage.  It extends the parental relationship protection beyond the children of an unmarried birth parent and the only possible genetic father to include the children of different-sex and female same-sex parents when the child is born by sperm or egg donation assisted reproduction from a donor who is not the spouse of the birth parent. Parents utilizing a surrogacy agreement are not be eligible to sign a VDOP.

19. I wasn’t married at the time I gave birth, but I’m married now. Can I complete a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage?

POP recommends that you secure a copy of the Voluntary Declaration of Parentage and read the instructions which outline qualifying and disqualifying circumstances. If you need further assistance, contact askpop@dcss.ca.gov, phone 916-464-1982, Fax 916-464-5898.

Agencies 

1. Are parents required to provide their Social Security Number on a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP)?

Yes. The Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement specified the required and optional data elements for parentage establishment affidavits pursuant to Action Transmittal (AT) 18-03.  Providing a social security number (SSN) is a required data element. Individuals who do not have SSNs are required to state that fact under penalty of perjury.

2. Who can submit a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage?

Anyone can submit a completed and witnessed Voluntary Declaration of Parentage to the Parentage Opportunity Program (POP). This includes authorized witnessing agencies and parents. Originals of all completed forms should be mailed to:

Parentage Opportunity Program, P.O. Box 419070, Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-9070

3. Can agencies request a certified copy of a filed Voluntary Declaration of Parentage?

California law authorizes only parents, the child, the local child support agency, the county welfare department, the county counsel, the State Department of Health Services and the courts to receive certified copies of filed Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP) forms. Statutorily authorized agencies wanting to request a copy of a filed VDOP may use, Authorized Agency-Request for Copy of a Filed Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (form DCSS 0919).

4. How can my agency order blank Voluntary Declaration of Parentage forms?

Agencies should utilize Publication Order (form DCSS 0596) to order blank copies of the VDOP.  VDOPs are provided to agencies free of charge and are available in English and Spanish. Order forms can be requested by emailing askpop@dcss.ca.gov. Please submit the order form using the contact options listed below:

The California Child Support Services Fulfillment Center at (916) 464-2866 or by emailing FacilitiesBusiness@dcss.ca.gov

OR

By emailing askpop@dcss.ca.gov.  

5. A mother is legally married, but her spouse is not the only other possible genetic parent of the child. Can she complete a VDOP?

When the birth parent is married, a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP) is only permissible in cases of sperm or egg donation assisted reproduction in which the donor is not the spouse of the birth parent.

6. Is there a nationwide database to look up Voluntary Declaration of Parentage forms completed outside of California?

No, there is no nationwide database to lookup a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP) completed outside of California. Each state maintains its own separate VDOP database.