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We must establish parentage (a legal parent-child relationship) for a child in order to obtain a court order for child support and health insurance coverage. Usually that means establishing legal paternity of a man. See Paternity Means Fatherhood.  If the child was conceived during the legal marriage of the parents, the law assumes the husband is the father of the child in most cases. If the parents are unmarried or the child was conceived prior to the marriage, a court order may be necessary. We can bring a lawsuit against the man who the mother names as the father. If the man denies he is the father, he can file an Answer and request Genetic Testing to determine if he is the biological father of the child. Legal paternity can also be established without going to court if the parents file a voluntary Declaration of Paternity form under California's Paternity Opportunity Program (POP). Under some circumstances the court may determine that a man is the legal father of a child even if he is not the biological father. If you are served with papers naming you as the father of a child, it is very important to protect your rights by filing an Answer right away. For more information, see File an Answer.

Birth Certificate

Effective January 1, 1997, if the parents of a child born in California are not legally married when the child is born, the father's name will not be added to the birth certificate unless both parents:

  • Sign a voluntary Declaration of Paternity form in the hospital, or
  • Sign the form later or legally establish paternity through the courts, and pay a fee to alter the birth certificate.
For more information on voluntarily acknowledging paternity:

Paternity Opportunity Program (POP)

For information on altering a birth certificate to add or change the father’s name, see the following brochures published by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Office of Vital Records (OVR):  Acknowledgement of Paternity/Parentage; Adjudication of Facts of Parentage. You may contact the Office of the Family Law Facilitator for assistance or Contact OVR for detailed instructions and fee information.