Establish Paternity (Parentage)
What is this service?
Establishing paternity is the process of determining the legal father of a child. When parents are married, paternity is automatically established in most cases. If parents are unmarried, paternity establishment is not automatic and the process should be started by both parents as soon as possible for the benefit of the child. Unmarried parents can establish paternity (legal fatherhood) by signing the voluntary Declaration of Paternity. This can be done in the hospital after the child is born. A Declaration of Paternity may also be signed by parents after they leave the hospital.
Unmarried parents who sign the Declaration of Paternity form help their child(ren) gain the same rights and privileges of a child born within a marriage. Some of those rights include: financial support from both parents, access to important family medical records, access to the non-custodial parent's medical benefits, and the emotional benefit of knowing who both parents are. More information child paternity is available on the State website.
Who can use this service?
Anyone can use this service.
Is there a charge for this service?
This service is provided free of charge.
When and where is this service offered?
This service is available throughout the year during regular business hours except during scheduled holidays.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get child support if I’m not sure who the father of my child is?
No. Paternity (a legal determination of who the father is) must be established before child support can be ordered. Paternity gives your child many rights, including child support, access to medical records, government benefits and more. However, you can get CalWORKS without paternity.
Can I start my case while I’m pregnant, before my baby is born?
You may start the paperwork to establish paternity when you are pregnant. The Local Child Support Agency (LCSA) can only open and pursue the case after the child is born. If the man you believe is the father denies that he is the father, a genetic test can be ordered after your baby is born. (Some labs will only perform genetic tests after a child is six (6) months of age or older). Genetic tests can be scheduled through the LCSA.
Can paternity be established for my child if the father lives in another state?
Yes. The local child support agency will ask for a genetic test from the court in the other state. Also, a man can sign a Declaration of Paternity voluntarily declaring he is the child’s father even if he lives in another state.
The man doesn’t have any money or a job to support our child. Why should I bother proving that he is the father?
If you don’t establish paternity, your child will not be able to get child support or health insurance even after the alleged father gets a job. Proving he is the father as soon as possible makes collecting child support easier later on.
What if the father leaves the state before it’s proven that he is the father?
The local court may use information they have to decide paternity without him. If paternity is established without the alleged father’s cooperation, the Court may order him to pay child support no matter where he lives, even if he is out of California.
Where can I get the official Declaration of Paternity form?
You can request the Declaration of Paternity form by sending your mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Declaration of Paternity form is also available at:
- A local child support agency.
- Local Registrars of Births and Deaths
- County Family Law Facilitators Offices at all superior courts in California
- County Departments of Social Services
- Licensed birthing units at public and private hospitals