The process of how to establish paternity in California is not necessarily complicated, but it is important. Establishing paternity is the process of determining the legal (biological) father of a child. In most cases, if the parents are married to each other, paternity is automatically established. However, when a couple is not married (unwed), the establishment of paternity is not automatic. Read on to learn more about how to establish paternity in California and the benefits of establishing paternity.

How to Establish Paternity by Voluntary Declaration

Paternity can be established by both parents signing a voluntary declaration of paternity. The declaration can be signed at the hospital after the child is born. This allows the father’s name to be placed on the child’s birth certificate immediately. If the declaration is signed before the child is discharged from the hospital, the mother or presumed father will not have to petition the court to prove paternity. However, a paternity action will have to be filed with the court to establish a custody or visitation order.  A copy of the Voluntary Declaration re Paternity is attached as an exhibit to substantiate that Paternity was previously established on a voluntary basis.

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A paternity declaration can also be signed at a public agency and filed with the California Department of Child Support Services Paternity Opportunity Program to be effective. If properly signed, the declaration will have the same effect as a court order. Neither parent will have to go to court and obtain an order to established paternity.

Once a signed declaration is entered with the court, the judge can make orders for custody, visitation and child support. Note, signing this declaration is voluntary. Make sure you are the biological parent prior to signing the declaration. It is difficult to undo paternity if you later find out the child is not yours. A declaration for paternity can be challenged in court up to two years after the child’s birth. You can also file to rescind a declaration within 60 days of signing one with the court.

How to Establish Paternity through Local Child Support Agency

Paternity can also be established with the help of your local child support agency. Your local agency can file an action to establish the parentage of your child. Although a much slower process than if you hire a professional paid service, the Department of Child Support Services offers a free service that also allows you to obtain a support order. Keep in mind that they will not assist with custody or visitation orders. Furthermore, the process could take 6 to 8 months or more. Contact the Department of Child Support Services in your county for more information. You will need to ask for an appointment to commence a case. Alternatively, for a much quicker process, you should consider hiring a legal document assistant such as A People’s Choice who can file the paperwork quickly. A hearing can often be set within 45 days.

How to Establish Paternity by Court Order

You can go to court yourself to establish paternity. You must fill out, file and serve court documents. You may also need to attend a hearing before a judge. Either parent can petition for a paternity court order. During a parentage case, a moving party can also request a court order for custody, visitation, and support. The parentage case should be filed in the County in which the child lives.

Contact A People’s Choice for more information on how to establish paternity in California.  We can show you how to establish paternity without having to pay high legal fees.

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