If you are an unmarried parent in California or if you are in a situation where you are married but your spouse is not the father of your child, you might need to take steps to establish paternity.

Paternity matters to the state, as it allows them to recoup costs associated with a child receiving state aid. It also matters to your child because paternity gives them a connection to their other parent and their family medical history.

Regardless of whether you hope to collect child support to help you give your child what they need or you want to establish paternity in order to request visitation time with your child, there are certain steps you may potentially need to take in order to legally establish yourself or a partner as the parents of a child.

Both parents can work together to acknowledge paternity

California allows parents to execute the Voluntary Declaration of Parentage or Paternity form as a means of affirming paternity. However, in order to use this document successfully, both parents have to agree about the paternity situation. You can do it at the time of birth to ensure the right names are on the birth certificate or any time after the birth of a child.

If you are a father who has a child with a woman that does not want to acknowledge you as the father or if you are a mother of a child whose father denies paternity, a voluntary acknowledgment may not be the best solution available to you. You may need to ask the state to step in.

There are two ways for the State of California to help you

Depending on your current situation, you can either go to a local facility for the Department of Child Support Services or the California family courts and ask them to assist you in establishing paternity.

It is common for mothers to go to child support offices, as they will establish paternity as a means of recouping benefits paid to a child or a mother. On the other hand, fathers often go to court to have genetic testing ordered so that they can establish themselves as the father of the child.

In contested paternity cases, genetic testing is usually the most reliable resource available. If the testing affirms paternity, the mother will have the right to request child support, while the father will have the option of requesting shared custody or at least visitation with their child.