What is Parentage?
Parentage is the recognition of a parent's legal relationship to a child. When parents are married, parentage is established without legal action in most cases. If parents are not married, parentage establishment requires a court order. The process to establish parentage should be started by one of the parents as soon as possible for the benefit of the child or children.
Until parentage is established, the parent who did not give birth to the child does not have the legal rights or responsibilities of a parent. Establishing parentage is necessary before custody, visitation, and permanent child support may be ordered by the court. (Note: custody and visitation issues are handled separately from child support.) If parentage is uncertain, a parent may request - or the court may order - genetic testing.
Benefits of Establishing Parentage
Establishing parentage is an important first step in obtaining child support. In addition to providing the basis for obtaining support, establishing parentage gives a child born to unmarried parents the legal rights and privileges of a child born within a marriage. Those rights and privileges may include:
Support from parents.
Legal documentation of who his or her parents are.
Access to family medical records. Many diseases, illnesses, birth defects, and other health problems are passed to children by their parents.
Medical and life insurance coverage from their parent, if available.
Social Security and Veteran’s Benefits, if available.
The emotional benefits of knowing who their parents are
How Parentage is Established
In California, parentage is established by either the marital presumption (a child born into a marriage, or spouses who lived together at the time of conception and birth, is legally a child of the marriage), by filing a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (VDOP) with the Parentage Opportunity Program (POP), or through the California family court system.
Completing a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage
A Voluntary Declaration of Parentage has the same effect as a court order establishing parentage for the child. Unmarried parents can complete a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage at the hospital following the birth of their child. Completing this form makes the process of legally establishing parentage easier and faster in most cases. A Voluntary Declaration of Parentage can also be completed by parents after they leave the hospital. Parents who choose to complete the Voluntary Declaration of Parentage after leaving the hospital can do so by contacting their local child support agency, local registrar of births and deaths, or the Family Law Facilitator in their local court. These agencies are "authorized witnesses". If a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage is completed outside of an authorized witness, it must be notarized by a Notary Public.
To file a VDOP with the California Department of Child Support Services, mail the original copy of the completed and witnessed form to:
Parentage Opportunity Program (POP)
P.O. Box 419070-MS 241
Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-9070
Cancelling a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage
A parent has the right to cancel (rescind) the Voluntary Decalration of Parentage (VDOP). If either parent decides to rescind the VDOP they will need to file the form DCSS 0915 Declaration of Parentage Recission with the California Department of Child Support Services within 60 calendar days from the latest date the VDOP was signed. For more information, read our program brochure, How to Cancel a Filed Voluntary Declaratin of Parentage.
Parents should not sign a VDOP if there are any doubts about who the genetic parents are. In certain cases, genetic testing may be available to assist parents with establishing legal parentage. Contact your local child support agency for assistance by calling (866) 901-3212.