Frequently Asked Questions about Paternity

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Parents 

1. What is Paternity?

Paternity, as defined by the California Department of Child Support Services, is a legal determination of fatherhood. There are only two ways to legally determine paternity in the state of California, through the court process or with a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity filed with the California Department of Child Support Services.

2. What is the Paternity Opportunity Program?

This is a voluntary program for an unmarried mother and biological father to establish legal paternity free of charge. This significantly decreases the time and money required to establish legal paternity through the lengthy and expensive court process. A signed Declaration of Paternity has the same force and effect as a judgement for paternity issued by a court.

3. Who do I contact for more information regarding establishing paternity?

Parents and agencies can reach Paternity 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 twenty-four (24) business hours.

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

As this is a voluntary program, parents should not sign the declaration if there is any doubt regarding the identity of the biological father. Please contact your county or regional child support agency through the statewide Customer Service Center phone line at (866) 901-3212 to request information regarding genetic testing.

5. Where can I get a blank copy of the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?

California Family Code Section 7571(f), states that, “Declarations shall be made available without charge at all local child support agency offices, offices of local registrars of births and deaths, courts, and county welfare departments within this state.” Upon the birth of a child, parents will be provided an opportunity to complete a Declaration of Paternity at the birthing hospital. Parents may also contact the Paternity Opportunity Program team at askpop@dcss.ca.gov to request a blank copy of the form. The Declaration of Paternity form (CS 909), is not available electronically; therefore, a physical copy of the form will be mailed to the address provided.

 

 

 

 

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

No. A Voluntary Declaration of Paternity may be completed any time after the child’s birth, if none of the disqualifying presumptions or conditions existed that established a presumed parent, according to California Family Code 7540 and 7611, such as the mother was not legally married to anyone at the time of conception or birth.

7. Who can witness the completion and signature of a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?

In California, authorized representatives from agencies such as the Family Law Facilitator of a local court, hospital where a child is born, local registrar of births & deaths, local child support agency, local welfare office or notary public officials are qualified to witness a Declaration of Paternity. When signing a Declaration outside the State of California, (including internationally), a notary public is the only qualified witness and a fee for services may be charged. A Declaration must be completed, signed by both parents with signatures properly witnessed and filed with the California Department of Child Support Services before legal paternity is established.

8. How long does it take to process a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?

California’s Paternity Opportunity Program takes an average of 14-21 business days to process a Declaration of Paternity. Once this time-frame has passed, parents can call the program’s toll-free line at (866) 249-0773 for a status update to confirm the declaration has been processed. The parents can also obtain a free, certified copy of the filed Declaration by submitting a Request for a Filed Declaration of Paternity form.

9. Can I expedite a request for a Certified Copy of a filed Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?

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

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

A parent can complete a Declaration even if they live outside of California, however they must have their signature witnessed by a notary public.

California Family Code Section 7571(d)

11. Is a completed Voluntary Declaration of Paternity recognized nationwide?

Once legal paternity is established in any U.S. state, the paternity establishment will be legally recognized nationwide. Every U.S. state is required to have a voluntary program to establish paternity, however, each state operates their own program independently. Please contact the state where the Declaration of Paternity was filed to obtain a copy, or for further information.

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

If a Declaration is returned as invalid, there will be a letter stating the reason(s) for invalidation. Common errors that result in an invalidated Declaration can include, but are not limited to, a parent(s) not utilizing an authorized witness or a notary certification error. If either parent has additional questions regarding the invalid Declaration they can call the Paternity Opportunity Program toll free line at (866) 249-0773.

13. How can I make corrections to a submitted Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?

Corrections may not be made to a filed Declaration. Parents who sign the Declaration are signing under penalty of perjury that the information provided is true and correct. Within 60 days of the date of execution of the declaration, the attesting mother or father can complete and file a Declaration of Paternity Rescission form to legally rescind the Declaration unless a court order for custody, visitation, or child support has been entered in an action involving that parent. 

(California Family Code Section 7575)

14. How do I get a copy of my filed Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?

To obtain a free certified copy of a Declaration, please submit a Request for a Filed Declaration of Paternity form to: 

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

Upon receipt, the request will be processed within 5 business days.

 

 

 

15. Will my wages be garnished if I complete the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?

Signing a Declaration does not automatically initiate any wage garnishment or child support process. Important information on the rights and responsibilities of parents signing a Declaration can be found in the California Family Code Section 7572 (b). For additional information regarding any financial aspect of the child support process, including questions regarding wage garnishment/child support, please contact your county or regional child support agency at (866) 901-3212.

16. Will filing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity change the name on the birth certificate?

No, filing a Declaration will not automatically change the name on a birth certificate. 

17. Can a same-sex couple sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?

The acceptance and filing of a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity signed by a same-sex couple is not recognized as legal at this time.

However, the Uniform Parentage Act, signed into law in 2018, will extend parental relationship protection to the children of female same-sex couples whose child is born by assisted reproduction, effective January 1, 2020.  California Child Support Services will be providing updated information reflecting these changes as it becomes available. If you are in a same-sex relationship and are unmarried, and wish to establish legal parental responsibility for your child, resources are available through your county’s Family Law Facilitator.

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

If the facts of the situation do not create an assumption of someone else’s legal responsibility for the child, the mother could qualify to sign the Declaration. Please contact the Paternity Opportunity Program at askpop@dcss.ca.gov with your details, as every situation will be different and the facts will need to be evaluated to determine if a Declaration can be signed.

(Family Code 7540 and 7611)

Agencies 

1. Are parents required to provide their Social Security Number on a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?

Yes. Also, individuals who do not have a Social Security Number are required to state that fact under penalty of perjury.

2. Who can submit a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?

Anyone can submit a completed and witnessed Declaration. This includes, but is not limited to, hospital staff, authorized witnessing agencies and parents. All completed forms should be mailed to:

  • Paternity Opportunity Program
  • P.O. Box 419070
  • Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-9070.
3. Can agencies can request a certified copy of a filed Voluntary Declaration of Paternity?

Copies of a filed Declaration are made available only to the parents, the child, a child support agency, county welfare department, county counsel, the California Department of Health and Human Services and the courts.  Any authorized agency wanting to request a copy of a filed Declaration may use the Authorized Agency – Paternity Declaration Information Request.

California Family Code section 7571(i)

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

Agencies should utilize our Publication Order form to order blank copies of the Declaration, which 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.  To submit the order form, use the below contact methods:

5. A mother is legally married, but her husband is not the biological father of her child. Can she complete a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity with the biological father of the child?

No. If a mother was legally married to anyone at the time of conception or birth or was living with anyone who could establish parentage, she is ineligible to complete a Declaration. California law establishes paternity to the husband of the child’s mother, even if he is not the biological father of the child. 

California Family Code Sections 7540 and 7611.

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

No, there is no nationwide database to lookup Declarations completed outside of California. Every state is required to have a voluntary program to establish paternity, however each state operates their own program independently.