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Paternity Opportunity Program FAQ

Program History

The California Paternity Opportunity Program (POP) was established in 1995 to comply with the federal mandate (Title 42 United States Code (USC) 666(a)(5)(C)) to have a simple system for an unmarried mother and biological father to establish paternity. For more than twenty-three (23) years, POP has helped over 3.3 million parents establish legal paternity in California. The California Department of Child Support Services operates the POP.

Parents

What is Paternity?

Paternity, as defined by the California Department of Child Support Services, is a legal determination of fatherhood. In California, there are only two ways to legally establish paternity for unmarried parents, which can be through the court process or through POP.

What is the Paternity Opportunity Program?

The POP is a voluntary program for an unmarried mother and biological father to establish legal paternity free of charge. This significantly decreases the time and money required to establish legal paternity through the lengthy and expensive court process. A signed CS 909, Declaration of Paternity has the same force and effect as a judgement for paternity issued by a court.

How do I contact the Paternity Opportunity Program?

Parents and agencies can reach POP staff Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. by phone and email. POP’s toll-free phone number is (866) 249-0773 (select option 3, and then select option 6), and the POP email is askpop@dcss.ca.gov. Emails and voicemails left after business hours will be returned within twenty-four (24) business hours.

What if I want a genetic/DNA test before signing the Declaration of Paternity?

POP is a voluntary program and parents should not sign the declaration if there is any doubt regarding the identity of the biological father. Please contact your county’s local child support agency through the Statewide Customer Service Center phone line at (866) 901-3212 to request information regarding genetic testing.

Where can I get a blank copy of the CS 909, Declaration of Paternity?

California Family Code Section7571(f), states that, “Declarations shall be made available without charge at all local child support agency offices, offices of local registrars of births and deaths, courts, and county welfare departments within this state." Upon the birth of a child, parents will be provided an opportunity to complete a Declaration of Paternity at the birthing hospital. Parents may also contact POP at askpop@dcss.ca.gov to request a blank copy of the form. The CS 909, Declaration of Paternity, is not available electronically; therefore, POP will mail a physical copy of the form to the address provided.

Is it too late to complete a Declaration of Paternity once my baby and I have left the hospital?

No. A CS 909, Declaration of Paternity, may be completed any time after the child’s birth, if none of the disqualifying presumptions or conditions existed that established a presumed parent, according to California Family Code 7540 and 7611, such as the mother was not legally married to anyone at the time of conception or birth.

Who can witness the completion and signature of a Declaration of Paternity?

In California, authorized representatives from agencies such as the Family Law Facilitator of a local court, hospital where a child is born, local registrar of births & deaths, local child support agency, local welfare office or notary public officials are qualified to witness a Declaration of Paternity. When signing a Declaration of Paternity outside the State of California, (including internationally), a notary public is the only qualified witness and a fee for services may be charged. A Declaration of Paternity must be completed, signed by both parents with signatures properly witnessed and filed with the California Department of Child Support Services before legal paternity is established.

How long does it take to process a Declaration of Paternity?

POP takes an average of 14-21 business days to process a Declaration of Paternity. Once this timeframe has passed, parents can call the POP toll-free line at (866) 249-0773 for a status update to confirm the declaration has been processed. The parents can also obtain a free, certified copy of the filed Declaration of Paternity by submitting a CS 918.

Can I expedite a request for a Certified Copy of a filed Declaration of Paternity?

POP does not expedite requests. Requests are fulfilled in the order they are received and all requests for certified copies are processed within 5 business days.

Can I complete a Declaration of Paternity even though I live outside the State of California?

A parent can complete a Declaration of Paternity even if they live outside of California, however they must have their signature witnessed by a notary public. California Family Code Section 7571(d) states, “If the declaration is not registered by the person responsible for live births at the hospital, it may be completed by the attesting parents, notarized, and mailed to the Department of Child Support Services at any time after the child’s birth.”

Is a completed Declaration of Paternity recognized nation-wide?

Once legal paternity is established in any U.S. state, the paternity establishment will be legally recognized nation-wide. Every U.S. state is required to have a voluntary program to establish paternity, however, each state operates their own program independently. Please contact the state where the Declaration of Paternity was filed to obtain a copy, or for further information.

I received notice that my Declaration of Paternity is invalid. Can you tell me why?

POP returns invalidated declarations with a letter stating the reason(s) the Declaration of Paternity is invalid and a blank Declaration of Paternity for use. Common errors that result in an invalidated declaration can include, but are not limited to, a parent(s) not utilizing an authorized witness or a notary certification error. If either parent has additional questions regarding the invalid Declaration of Paternity, they can call the POP toll free line at (866) 249-0773.

How can I make corrections to a submitted Declaration of Paternity?

POP is unable to make corrections to a filed CS 909 Declaration of Paternity. Parents who sign the CS 909 are signing under penalty of perjury, that the information provided is true and correct. Within 60 days of the date of execution of the declaration, the attesting mother or father can complete and file form CS 915, Declaration of Paternity Rescission form to legally rescind the Declaration of Paternity unless a court order for custody, visitation, or child support has been entered in an action in which the signatory seeking to rescind was a party. Additional information on the rescission process can be found in California Family Code Section 7575. The rescission form can be found on the POP Forms and Publications page.

How do I obtain a copy of my filed Declaration of Paternity?

To obtain a free, certified copy of a Declaration of Paternity, please submit form CS 918 Request for a Filed Declaration of Paternity to POP at P.O. Box 419070, Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-9070. The form can be found on the POP Forms and Publications page. Upon receipt, the request will be processed within 5 business days and mailed to the address provided on the CS 918 or faxed to the fax number provided on the CS 918.

Will my wages be garnished if I complete the Declaration of Paternity?

Signing a Declaration of Paternity does not automatically initiate any wage garnishment or child support process. California Family Code Section 7572(b) contains important information on parents’ rights and responsibilities associated with signing a Declaration of Paternity. For additional information regarding any financial aspect of the child support process, including questions regarding wage garnishment/child support, please contact your county local child support agency through the Statewide Customer Service Center phone line at (866) 901-3212.

Will filing a Declaration of Paternity change the name on the birth certificate?

No, filing a Declaration of Paternity will not change the name on a birth certificate automatically. Please contact the California Department of Public Health, Office of Vital Records to obtain additional information regarding the process to change the name listed on a birth certificate. You may contact the Office of Vital Records at (916) 445-2684, or by emailing VRmail@cdph.ca.gov.

Can a same-sex couple sign a Declaration of Paternity?

POP was established in 1995 to comply with the federal mandate (Title 42 United States Code (USC) 666(a)(5)(C)) to have a simple system for an unmarried mother and biological father to establish paternity. The acceptance and filing of a paternity declaration signed by a same-sex couple would exceed the current functional authority of POP. Additional information and resources for same-sex couples wanting to establish parentage is available at California Superior Court locations containing a Family Law Facilitator’s office.

I wasn’t married at the time I gave birth, but I’m married now. Can I complete a CS 909, Declaration of Paternity?

If the facts of the situation do not support application of any of the statutory presumptions of California Family Code 7540 and 7611 for establishing presumed parent status in another person, the mother could qualify to sign the CS 909, Declaration of Paternity. For example, the mother was unmarried at the time of conception, remained unmarried through the time of birth and never cohabitated with anyone who could establish parentage. Down the road the mother marries a man who is not the biological father of the child and this man did not agree to be financially responsible for the child’s support, adopt the child or hold the child out to be his natural child. If none of the disqualifying presumptions or conditions existed that established a presumed parent, the mother and the biological father would be eligible to complete a CS 909, Declaration of Paternity even though the mother is now married.

Agencies

Are parents required to provide their Social Security Number on a Declaration of Paternity?

Yes. The Federal Office of Management and Budget specify the required and optional data elements for paternity establishment affidavits pursuant to Action Transmittal (AT-18-03), and providing a SSN is a required data element. Individuals who do not have SSNs are required to state that fact under penalty of perjury.

Who can submit a Declaration of Paternity to the Paternity Opportunity Program?

Anyone can submit a complete and witnessed Declaration of Paternity to POP. This includes, but is not limited to, hospital staff, authorized witnessing agencies and parents. Forms should be mailed to POP at P.O. Box 419070, Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-9070.

Who can request a certified copy of a filed Declaration of Paternity?

California Family Code section 7571(i) states "Copies of the declaration and any rescissions filed with the Department of Child Support Services shall be made available only to the parents, the child, the local child support agency, the county welfare department, the county counsel, the State Department of Health Services and the courts." Agencies wanting to request a copy of a filed Declaration of Paternity may use form CS 919, Paternity Declaration Information Request form.

How can my agency order the Declaration of Paternity forms?

Agencies should utilize Publication Order form (DCSS 0596) to order blank copies of the CS909, Declaration of Paternity, which are provided to agencies free of charge and are available in English and Spanish. Agencies may contact the Department of Child Support Service’s fulfillment center at (916) 464-2866 or by emailing FacilitiesBusiness@dcss.ca.gov. Agencies may also contact POP to obtain form DCSS 0596 by emailing askpop@dcss.ca.gov.

A mother is legally married, but her husband is not the biological father of her child. Can she complete a Declaration of Paternity with the biological father of the child?

No. If a mother was legally married to anyone at the time of conception or birth or was cohabitating with anyone who could establish parentage, she is ineligible to complete a CS 909, Declaration of Paternity. Marital presumption establishes paternity in the husband, even if he is not the biological father. Additional information on the statutory provisions regarding marital presumption can be found in California Family Code Sections 7540 and 7611. A Court must determine paternity in such a case.

Is there a nationwide database to look up Declaration of Paternity forms completed outside of California?

No, there is no nationwide database to lookup Declaration of Paternity forms completed outside of California. Every state is required to have a voluntary program to establish paternity, however each state operates their own program independently.