Establishing Paternity in California

One certainty in life is children need their parents to not only raise; but shelter and care for them. Most often, a father’s ability to prove paternity (fatherhood) of a child born or legally residing in California is easy if he and the mother are married or cohabitating. His name is on their child’s birth certificate; or if they are unmarried, both parents agree his name is on the birth certificate.

But if legal paternity is not agreeably established, it hinders or prevents fathers from being legal custodians, or having visitation rights with their kids. Without legal paternity, a father’s children also cannot receive normal benefits other children are entitled to: such as healthcare and disability coverage; and even survivors’ or life insurance death benefits when their father dies.

So if either a father who wishes to claim the legal rights to his child he feels is his own and was previously unknown – or denied – to him, or a child is compelled to seek protections and rights outlined above from their natural father, paternity must be sought.


after establishing paternity, the father walks hand in hand with his childAll California paternity issues are addressed in the California State Family Code [C.F.C. 7610 & 7611]. Any biological father whose name does not appear on his child’s birth certificate and wants to be his child’s legal parent has two options. File a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity for unmarried parents to amend an existing California birth certificate, or assert their paternity status through a court order with the help of an attorney.

Both parents must sign the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form for the order to valid. This is to ensure that both parents agree on the identity of the biological father and that both are the parents of the child. They may sign the form either after the child's birth in the hospital or at a later time.

Advances in technology-based identification methods over the past 20 years, such as DNA testing, have made proving paternity almost foolproof. This has greatly reduced many emotionally charged paternity hearings due to the almost 100 percent accuracy of DNA testing.


The benefits to a child for a father who asserts his paternal rights include:

  • The child can get parental support, shelter and guidance from both father and mother
  • Health and life insurance coverage is available from both parents instead of one
  • Paternity offers children to have a more complete medical history
  • The father can sign documents on behalf of the child, and has other rights: like legal standing surrounding custody, visitation, and other proceedings that affect his child
  • The child becomes eligible for the father’s social security, veteran’s benefits, and any military family allowances
  • And a child stands to gain from the simple fact of knowing his or her “dad”


Once established, rescinding (withdrawing) your paternity status cannot be done before 60 days after your child’s birth certificate has been signed or amended. Nor can fathers rescind paternity within 60 days of any trial having to do with your paternity, custody or any family court matters having to do with your paternal child. And even if a family court judge may consider canceling your Declaration of Paternity, you must have an overwhelmingly compelling, and acceptable reason to do so. This is why you must carefully consider your decision to acknowledge your paternity in California very carefully. You must be fully and properly committed to do this because if you change your mind later, undoing your paternity declaration is a difficult – if not impossible – undertaking.

Even though establishing paternity for your children can be as simple as signing a single form, the process is sometimes not necessarily so simple. Fathers must submit to Family Court Services mediation if custody between unmarried parents is an element to Declarations of paternity. Other issues unique to your case may also need to be worked-out.


If you living in California and need help with a paternity case, we invite you to contact Alexandra Lavinsky, Principle with Lavinsky Family Law to arrange a complimentary consultation at (310) 929-6411, or click the “Contact” icon on this website to send us a message. We’ll respond quickly to learn how we can help you take responsibility for your children.