Parentage Opportunity Program

New unmarried parents may sign a parentage form at the hospital immediately following the birth of their child. This form is called a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage. Signing this form will make the process of legally establishing parentage easier and faster in most cases. A Voluntary Declaration of Parentage may also be signed by parents after they leave the hospital.

In an effort to create a legal "link" between unmarried parents and their children, the California Department of Social Services joined other states, in a partnership with licensed hospitals and clinics with birthing facilities, to establish the Parentage Opportunity Program (POP). This voluntary in-hospital parentage acknowledgment program, implemented in January of 1995, involves approximately 360 of California's licensed hospitals and clinics. The program has since been expanded to prenatal clinics, county welfare offices, local vital records offices, and courts.

As a result of federal welfare reform legislation effective January 1, 1997, if the parents of a child are not legally married, the parent's name will NOT be added to the birth certificate unless they:

  1. Sign a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage in the hospital, or
  2. Sign the form later, or legally establish parentage through the courts and pay a fee to amend the birth certificate.

Signing a Parentage Declaration

A signed Voluntary Declaration of Parentage has the same effect as a court order establishing parentage for the child. If the child does not live with you, and a court action is filed, you may be ordered by the court to pay child support. A court action must be filed to deal with the issues of custody, visitation, or child support.

You have the right to a trial in court to decide the issue of parentage; to notice on any hearing on the issue of parentage; to have the opportunity to present your case to the court, including the right to present and cross examine witnesses; to have an attorney represent you; or to have an attorney appointed to represent you if you cannot afford one in an action filed by DCSS. By signing this declaration, you are, by your choice, giving up all of these rights.

If either of you later change your mind about signing the VDOP form, you must complete a form to rescind or cancel the Voluntary Declaration of Parentage and file it with the State Office of Vital Records within 60 days from the date you sign the VDOP form. You can get a rescission form by contacting our office or the local office of vital statistics.

This form may be challenged in court only in the first two years after the child's birth, by using DNA tests that prove or disprove a biological relationship. It also may be overturned if the parents are able to prove that one or both signed the form because of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact.

If either or both of you are under the age of 18, a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage will not establish parentage until 60 days after both of you are age 18, or are emancipated. If you wish to legally establish parentage before both of you become legal adults, you should consult an attorney or contact our office.

The Voluntary Declaration of Parentage is a legal document that will establish parentage. You do not have to complete or sign this form. If any part of this form does not make sense to you, contact our office or a lawyer before signing the form.

For more information about the establishment of parentage or child support, please contact us at (866) 901-3212 or go to the state website POP - Parentage Opportunity Program.