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Paternity

Paternity means fatherhood. Establishing paternity is the legal process of determining the legal father of a child. When parents are married, paternity most often is established without legal action. If the parents are unmarried, paternity establishment requires a court judgment of paternity. A parentage case may be started by the mother, the father, the child's personal representative or the Department of Child Support Services in the county where the child lives, or can be found.

Paternity must be established before custody, visitation, child support, name change or restraining orders may be ordered by the court. If the alleged father admits paternity, or it is proven that he is the father, a judgment of paternity will be entered. If there is no admission of paternity, or if either of the parties are not sure of the paternity of the child, the court may order the mother, child and alleged father to take part in genetic testing.

I believe that I am the father of a child, however the mother will not
acknowledge me. How can I establish myself as the father?

You may file a Petition to Establish a Parental Relationship. In order to file in Orange County, the child must currently live in, or be found in, Orange County or have recently been removed from this county. If the mother does not agree that you are the father of the child, you will need to file additional court forms and present your case to a judge.

What is a Declaration of Paternity form?

This form is to officially and legally establish who is the natural father of the child if the mother and father are not married. When this form is completed correctly and signed by both parents, it has the same effect as a court order establishing paternity for the child, without anyone having to go to court.

You may have an opportunity to complete a Declaration of Paternity (form CS 909) in the hospital if you are present when the child is born. If not, both parents may sign it at any time after the child’s birth. This form is available from the Office of the Family Law Facilitator or Department of Child Support Services. When the form is not signed at the hospital at the time of birth, both parents must sign it in front of a notary public and mail it to:

State Department of Social Services
744 P Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone Number:
916-445-6951

A signed and filed Declaration of Paternity form gives a father legal rights and responsibilities toward the child:

  • He can be held responsible for child support.
  • He may seek a court order for visitation or custody of his child.

He will be waiving the following rights as they relate to the establishment of paternity:

  • Right to trial in court to decide the issue of paternity;
  • Right to notice of hearing on the issue of paternity;
  • Right to present and cross-examine witnesses;
  • Right to have an attorney represent him;
  • Right to have an attorney represent him if he cannot afford one in an action filed by the local child support agency.

You can get a Declaration of Paternity form from:

  • The Office of the Family Law Facilitator, 7th Floor at Lamoreaux Justice Center in Orange
  • The Department of Child Support Services

I am not an adult (18 years of age or older) can I sign a Declaration of Paternity form?

Yes, if you are the parent of a child you may sign the form, even if you are not 18 years of age or older. However, legal paternity will not be established until 60 days after both of the parents reach the age of 18, or are otherwise legally free and independent.

I signed a Declaration of Paternity form, but now I am not sure that I should have. Can I
cancel the form?

You have 60 days after the date you signed the form, to fill out and file another form to cancel the Declaration of Paternity without giving a reason. To do this you must use the form, Rescission Form for the Declaration of Paternity (CS 915). This form is available from the Office of the Family Law Facilitator or Department of Child Support Services. This Rescission Form cancels the legal father-child relationship created by the Declaration of Paternity.

  • Only one parent needs to sign the form, but it must be signed before a Notary Public.
  • If the mother and father signed the Declaration of Paternity form on different dates, use the most recent date to calculate the 60 days.
  • A copy of the Rescission Form for the Declaration of Paternity is to be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the other person named as parent advising him or her that the Declaration is being canceled.
  • A copy of the form and receipt must be sent to:

    Department of Child Support Services Paternity Opportunity Program
    P.O. Box 419070
    Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-9070

After 60 days have passed since the signing of the Declaration of Paternity form, the requirements for canceling are more difficult. You may want to seek legal assistance.

I signed a Declaration of Paternity in the hospital when my child was born. How can I
get a copy of it?

State law allows only the people or agencies listed below to obtain copies of these forms:

  • Parents;
  • The child;
  • County Child Support Services agencies;
  • County Welfare Departments;
  • County Counsel;
  • The Courts

A parent requesting a copy of their Declaration of Paternity form filed with the State of California should either complete a Parents Request Form for Declaration of Paternity (CS 918). This form is available from the Office of the Family Law Facilitator or Department of Child Support Services; or send a letter to:

Department of Child Support Services Paternity Opportunity Program
P.O. Box 419070
Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-9070

If you are sending a letter, be sure to include all the identifying information about the child and the parents, and sign the letter.

I am not married to my child's father/mother, how can I get him/her to pay child support?

The Court cannot make any orders for support, custody or visitation until paternity is established. Both parents may have signed a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity at the hospital when the child was born or paternity may also be established by filing a Petition to Establish a Parental Relationship and bringing the case before a judge. After paternity has been established, child support can be requested in the paternity case or by filing a Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children.

Who has access to information in a paternity case?

All of the information in a paternity case is private. The only people who can look in the court file are:

  • The mother and father
  • Attorneys of the mother and father
  • The Department of Child Support Services if they are involved in the case.
How can a father get his name on a child's Birth Certificate?

There are two (2) ways a man, who is not married to the child’s mother, can get his name on his child's birth certificate. He can:

  • Sign a Declaration of Paternity (at the hospital or later) or
  • Legally establish paternity through the court by filing a Petition to Establish a Parental Relationship to start a parentage case.

Once paternity has been officially and legally established, the parents may add the father’s name to the birth certificate by requesting form VS 22, Application to Amend a Birth Record-Acknowledgment of Paternity, from their county’s Local Registrar of Births and Deaths.

This form is available at no charge from:

  • Offices of local registrars of births and deaths
  • State Registrar in Sacramento
  • County Clerk-Recorder's offices

Mail the completed form and required fee to:

Office of Vital Records, MS 5103
P.O. Box 997410
Sacramento, CA 95899-7410

How do I get assistance on how to establish parentage and/or get custody or visitation orders?

The Self-Help Center located on the first floor of the Lamoreaux Justice Center at 341 The City Drive, Orange, CA provides assistance. The following workshop is also available in English and Spanish: "How to Establish Parentage and/or get Custody/Visitation Orders (Unmarried Parents)."

© 2014 Superior Court of Orange County