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Parentage



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Establishing parentage or paternity is the process of determining the legal father of a child when the parents are not married at the time of conception or birth. In most cases, parentage actions are only necessary when the parents are not, or never were, married to each other.

A legal determination of parentage is necessary before the court can make custody, visitation, or child support orders. Additionally, an establishment of paternity may be required to provide the child with medical and life insurance coverage, to protect the child's inheritance rights, or to secure Social Security or veterans' benefits, if available.

Parentage can be established with or without the court's assistance. There are three methods for establishing parentage:

1.   Voluntary Declaration of Paternity
Parents can establish paternity without going to court by signing a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. The parents can sign a declaration at the hospital when the child is born. If the declaration is not signed at the hospital, the parents can obtain the required forms by emailing askpop@dcss.ca.gov, or visiting the Department of Child Support Services, the Registrar of Births, the Family Law Facilitator's Office, or a County Welfare Department. This form is not available online; parents must obtain an original form from one of the agencies listed above. The completed form is filed with the Department of Child Support Services Paternity Opportunity Program, and has the same effect as a signed court order for paternity. More information about the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form is available at http://www.childsup.ca.gov/Portals/0/cp/docs/cs909_english.pdf.

Either parent can rescind a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity within 60 days of signing, unless a case for custody, visitation, or support has already been started. Parents under 18 have until 60 days after their 18th birthday to rescind a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. A Declaration of Paternity Rescission formally cancels the legal father-child relationship created by the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. More information and the form are available at http://www.childsup.ca.gov/Portals/0/cp/docs/cs915_english.pdf

In certain circumstances, it may be possible to ask the court to set aside a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity, even if it has been more than 60 days since it was signed. You will need to file a Request for Hearing and Application to Set Aside Voluntary Declaration of Paternity (FL-280), available online at http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/fl280.pdf. Instructions for completing this form are available from the California Courts Self-Help website at http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/fl281.pdf.  

More information about rescinding or setting aside a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity is available at http://www.courts.ca.gov/1202.htm#acc11271.

2.     Ask the Department of Child Support Services to Establish Parentage 
The Department of Child Support Services can bring an action to establish the parentage of your child. As part of this action, they will ask for a child support order. There is no charge to have the Department of Child Support Services handle your case. Either parent can open this type of case. For information on how to open a case with the Department of Child Support Services, see http://www.dcss.saccounty.net/Services/Pages/OpeningACase.aspx.

3.     Go to Court to Establish Parentage Yourself 
To bring a case to establish parentage, you must file and serve several forms, pay a filing fee (currently $435, see http://saccourt.ca.gov/fees/docs/fee-schedule.pdf for current fees) unless you qualify for a fee waiver, and possibly attend a court hearing. For more information, see the Step-by-Step guide on Fee Waivers on our website at http://www.saclaw.org/pages/fee-waiver.aspx. If a parent is under 18 years old, a Guardian Ad Litem must be appointed to file these court documents. An Application and Order for Appointment of Guardian Ad Litem of Minor (FL-935), available online at http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/fl935.pdf, can be used to have a Guardian Ad Litem appointed.    

Parentage cases require mandatory statewide Judicial Council forms as well as some Sacramento County local forms. Both types of forms, along with step-by-step instructions, are available from the Sacramento Superior Court's website at http://www.saccourt.ca.​gov/​family/upa.aspx.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

On the Web:

California Courts Self-Help Website
http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-parentage.htm 
Information, forms, and instructions for parentage cases.

California Department of Child Support Services http://www.childsup.ca.gov/Resources/EstablishPaternity/FormsAndPublications/tabid/128/Default.aspx
Several handouts related to parentage and the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity.

Sacramento Superior Court Website
http://www.saccourt.ca.gov/family/upa.aspx 
Information about parentage cases.

At the Law Library:

California Child Custody and Litigation Practice KFC 115 .C34 Chap. 2 
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.

California Family Law Practice and Procedure KFC 115 .L87 Chap. 31 
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using the Matthew Bender CD.

California Forms of Pleading and Practice KFC 1010 .A65 C3 Chap. 412 
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using the Matthew Bender CD.

California Practice Guide: Family Law KFC 115 .H64 R8 Chap. 6 
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.

Family Law Manual KFC 115 .A65 .C35 § B-05   

Practice Under the California Family Code: Dissolution, Separation, Nullity KFC 126 .P73 Chap. 8A 
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLaw.

Updated 11/13 mpj