When parents have a child while they are married, paternity is automatically established for the father. However, if a child is born outside of marriage, the process to establish paternity is longer and more complex.

Declaration of Paternity

When a child is born out of wedlock, both the mother and the father can sign a Declaration of Paternity at the hospital, with both names listed on the child’s birth certificate. In these cases, the birth mother will not need to prove the father’s paternity to a court. If the Declaration of Paternity is signed later, a new birth certificate can be issued with the father’s name listed. The document must be signed at one of the following agencies:

A welfare office;A local child support agency; orA local superior court with a family law facilitator available.

The Declaration of Paternity can be signed elsewhere if the signature is witnessed by a notary public.

What Happens After the Form Has Been Signed?

For the Declaration of Paternity to go into effect, the parents must file the form with the California Department of Child Support Services Paternity Opportunity Program. A judge will then make child custody, visitation, and child support orders. Each parent will have the same amount of responsibilities and rights to the child, in terms of child support and custody.

When the Declaration of Paternity has been signed, the following rights have been given up:

The right to a trial in court to determine parentage;DNA or blood tests;Notice of a hearing on the issue of parentage;A chance to present a case in court; andThe right to cross-examine witnesses.

What if the Requirements Are Not Met?

If either parent does not meet their obligations to support their child, then the parent who has custody of the child, a legal guardian, or a child support agency can request to the court to enforce support orders. If these orders are violated by either parent, then he or she may face a maximum fine of $1,000 and five days in jail for every violation committed.

Is it Possible to Change or Challenge a Declaration of Paternity?

To cancel the Declaration of Paternity, either parent will need to fill out a Declaration of Paternity Rescission with the Department of Child Support Services within 60 days after signing the Declaration of Paternity. Even though the form needs to be filled out by only one parent, the other parent will need to be notified by certified mail with a requested return receipt.

Either parent may challenge a Declaration of Paternity in court within the first two years after the child’s birth. He or she may do so by using and identifying DNA and blood tests that prove the male is not the child’s biological father, or by proving that the form was signed due to fraud or he or she was forced to sign the document.

Contact a San Jose Family Law Attorney

Having a child can be the most exciting time in someone’s life. However, that excitement may be put on hold if paternity tests need to be ordered to determine legal parenthood. At Dominion Law Group, LLP, we understand your questions and concerns, and we make your needs the highest importance. To get the help you deserve, please call an experienced San Jose family law lawyer at 408-288-5592 for a free consultation.


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