Paternity and Establishing Fatherhood

image, baby

When a child is born to unmarried parents, the child does not have the same rights or access to benefits of their relationship with each parent, as a child born to married parents.

Additionally, the father does not automatically have the legal rights of a parent and will not be named on the birth certificate. 

To establish a legal relationship between a child born to unmarried parents, and the father, there are two options;

  • sign a voluntary declaration of paternity
  • get a court order which legally establishes paternity (fatherhood) and pay a fee to amend the birth certificate

The Paternity Opportunity Program (POP) is a  free and easy way to establish paternity without having to go to court.

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  • What is the voluntary declaration of paternity?

    The Voluntary Declaration of Paternity (VDOP) is a legal form that, once filed with the state, voluntarily establishes legal paternity (Fatherhood) and has the same legal effect of a court order. Unmarried parents complete and sign the declaration after the child is born.

    If you have questions, contact the San Diego POP coordinator by email at

  • When and where can parents sign the declaration?

    All hospital birthing centers in San Diego County participate in the POP program. After the baby is born, the unmarried mother and father will be asked if they want to complete the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity. When parents complete the form in the hospital, the father’s name can be added to the child’s original birth certificate.

    Parents can also complete the declaration at the following locations after they leave the hospital:

    Parents can also request the declaration be mailed to them and sign the forms later in front of a notary. To have the declaration mailed to you, please contact the office.

    Military fathers-to-be facing or already on deployment should contact a POP Coordinator to learn how they can establish paternity. Click here for more information.

  • How can we get a copy of the declaration?

    Either parent must complete the request form or send a written request with signature indicating if a certified copy or a faxed copy is needed to:

          California Department of Child Support Services
          P.O. Box 41970
          Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-9070

    If writing a request, provide the following information:

    • Child’s complete name, date of birth, and county of birth
    • Mother’s and father’s complete names and dates of birth
    • Name of the parent making the request
    • Mailing address and phone number
    • Fax number, if requesting a faxed copy
    • Relationship to the child
    • Original signature; It will not be processed without it.

    Please allow 10 working days for your request to be processed.

    If you have questions about the POP Program, contact the San Diego County POP Coordinator by email at

  • How can we cancel the declaration?

    Either parent may cancel or rescind the declaration by completing a Rescission of Paternity form. This form must be mailed to the California DCSS within 60 days of the original date the paternity declaration was signed.

    You may get a copy of the rescission form by contacting the local POP Coordinator or on the CA DCSS web site.





Frequently Asked Questions