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Paternity FAQs

 What does “establishing paternity” mean?
Establishing paternity is the process of determining the legal father of a child

 Why is it important to establish paternity?
If you don't establish paternity, your child will not be able to get child support or health insurance. Establishing paternity as soon as possible makes collecting child support easier in the future. Also, establishing paternity grants the child rights to certain social entitlements, such as social security and pension, and /or veterans benefits, inheritance protection, and access to family medical records. It is also necessary to establish paternity before custody/visitation can be established.

 Do I have to establish paternity for my child if I’m married to the father?
No, when parents are married, paternity is automatically established in most cases.

 How is paternity established?
Paternity can be established through a court order or by both parents voluntarily signing a Declaration of Paternity.

 What is a Declaration of Paternity?
A Declaration of Paternity is a voluntary acknowledgment signed by both parents to declare who the father of the child is. An unmarried mother and the father of her child can establish paternity for the child by signing the voluntary Declaration of Paternity either in the hospital after the child is born, in front of a notary public or at an authorized agency, such as the welfare or child support office.

 Can paternity be established for my child if the father lives in another state?
Yes. DCSS will ask for a genetic test from the court in the other state in order to begin the process of establishing paternity. Also, a man can sign a Declaration of Paternity even if he lives in another state.

 I’m not 18 years old; can the baby’s father and I still sign a Declaration of Paternity?
Yes. However, the declaration will not establish paternity until 60 days after both parents have reached the age of 18 or are emancipated in accordance with the California Family Code.

 I am separated from my husband, but not divorced yet. Can my boyfriend, who is the baby’s biological father, sign the Declaration of Paternity?
No. The law presumes that as long as you are legally married, the husband is the father of the baby. Only the court can establish paternity with someone other than your legal husband. Only unmarried women can sign the Declaration of Paternity.

 Can the Declaration of Paternity be submitted when a parent does not have current home address or a valid Social Security Number?
Yes. If the parent is homeless then they should write “homeless” in the address line. If the person doesn’t have a valid Social Security Number they must check the box on the Paternity Declaration certifying they do not have a Social Security Number.

 Can a father that is married sign a Declaration of Paternity for a child he fathered outside of the marriage?
Yes. The father, although married to someone else, can sign the Declaration of Paternity to have his name entered on the child’s birth certificate as the legal father. However, the mother must not be married because only unmarried women can sign the Declaration of Paternity.

 My boyfriend won’t be there when I have the baby. Can he sign the Declaration of Paternity before the baby is born?
Only military and terminally ill fathers can sign the Declaration before the baby is born. Military fathers need a note from their commanding officer stating they will be deployed when the baby is born.

 Can parents complete a Declaration of Paternity when a child is born alive and then dies shortly after birth?
Yes. Parents may complete and sign a Declaration of Paternity when there is a live birth and the child dies shortly after birth.

 Can a Declaration of Paternity be completed when the father has died prior to the birth of the child?
No. If the parents were not married and thefather has died prior to the child’s birth, the father’s name cannot be added to the birth certificate using a Declaration of Paternity. Paternity must be established through the court process. The mother should contact an attorney or a Family Law Facilitator to determine how to proceed with the process of establishing paternity for the child.

 Can the biological parents sign the Declaration of Paternity form if the child is going to be adopted?
Yes. The biological parents are the only ones who can sign the Declaration of Paternity form.

 Can same sex couples that conceive a child through artificial insemination sign a Declaration of Paternity?
No. The law states that only the biological mother of the child and the man identified as the biological father may sign the Declaration of Paternity.

 What do I do if I signed a Declaration of Paternity when the child was born, but I now have my doubts about whether or not I’m the child’s father?
Any parent who signed a Declaration of Paternity can use a Declaration of Paternity Rescission (CS 915) form 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. The form is available by clicking here.

If more than 60 days have passed or a court order for custody, visitation or child support has been entered, either parent can file a motion before the court requesting to have the Declaration of Paternity set aside. The court may order genetic testing and will consider the child’s best interest in making the decision to set aside the Declaration of Paternity.

  What do I do if a default court order established me as the father of a child but I don’t think I am the child’s biological father?
You should contact DCSS. In some instances, if the court determines the previously established father is not the biological father the court may set aside the judgment of paternity unless it is not in the best interest of the child(ren).