Establishing Legal Paternity

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“Paternity” is the recognition of a man as a child’s legal father. The Paternity Opportunity Program is a voluntary program for an unmarried mother and biological father to establish paternity free of charge, since paternity establishment is not automatic when the parents are unmarried.

Unmarried parents should establish legal paternity as soon as possible by signing a voluntary Declaration of Paternity. California Child Support Services administers this program, which is available in all California birthing hospitals, clinics with birthing facilities and prenatal clinics, and in all county child support offices and local vital records offices. A filed Declaration of Paternity has the same force and effect as a judgment for paternity issued by a court.

Unmarried parents who sign the Declaration of Paternity form give their child the same important rights and privileges as a child born within a marriage. Those rights include financial support from both parents and access to military benefits, Social Security, important family medical records, both parents’ medical benefits, rights of inheritance when applicable and more.

The Uniform Parentage Act, signed into law in 2018, extends this parental relationship protection to the children of female same-sex couples whose child is born by assisted reproduction.  This takes effect on January 1, 2020.  California Child Support Services will be providing updated information reflecting these changes as it becomes available, but the forms on this website will be in use throughout 2019. If you are in a same-sex relationship and are unmarried, and wish to establish legal parental responsibility for your child, contact our Paternity Opportunity team for more information at 1-866-249-0773 (select Option 3 and then Option 5) or email  PLEASE REMEMBER that this change does not take effect until 2020.

Genetic Testing

Either parent may request genetic testing before signing the voluntary Declaration of Paternity. Genetic testing may not be requested by the parents who signed the form once it has been filed.

Your local child support agency can help you get genetic testing when paternity is at issue.  Each county’s genetic testing process is different, so for the most accurate information, please contact the child support agency in your county or region.  California Child Support Services is contracted with LabCorp for genetic testing.  To learn more about LabCorp please visit their website, and for frequently asked genetic testing questions, please visit their DNA website FAQs section.

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