In California, establishing legal paternity for a child can be a complicated
process when there are children born out of wedlock. The easiest way for
unmarried parents to establish paternity is to get married.However, there
is another method for establishing paternity for unmarried parents in
California, and it is referred to as the Paternity Opportunity Program
(also known as the “POP” Program).
As we said earlier, getting married is the easiest way to legitimize a
child under the law in California. Under the California Family Code, for
example, there is a conclusive marital presumption under section 7540.
A conclusive presumption is a legal term used to describe a fact that
usually cannot be rebutted or contradicted by other evidence. Under the
conclusive marital presumption, a husband is conclusively presumed to
be the father of a child born to his wife, so long as the husband and
wife were cohabiting at the time of conception and the husband is not
impotent or sterile. In comparison, if you are an unmarried father in
California, it’s important to understand that having a genetic link
between father and child is not necessarily the deciding factor in a paternity
action in this state. Under the language of section 7540, it is possible
for a court in California to recognize a spouse’s husband as father
of a child regardless of genetic link.
So how does the Paternity Opportunity Program help unmarried fathers establish
legal fatherhood? A father who is not married to a child’s mother
can establish paternity in the hospital after the birth of a child by
filling out and signing a form known as the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity
via the POP program. Generally, an unmarried father in California will
not have his name appear on the birth certificate unless a Declaration
of Paternity is signed in the hospital, or signed shortly thereafter,
or when an unmarried father legally establishes his paternity in a California
court and pays a fee to have the birth certificate amended.
The POP program was established in January 1995.The California Department
of Child Support Services joined other states in a combined effort with
licensed hospitals and clinics with birth facilities to establish the
Paternity Opportunity Program (POP). The POP Program is a simplified procedure
intended to permit unmarried parents to establish legal fatherhood by
the mere signing of a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form in the hospital
rather than having to go through the time and expense of going to court.
Once the form is signed, a child will have the ability to gain valuable
rights from their legal father such as child support, access to family
medical records, access to a non-custodial parent’s medical benefits,
ability to have access to father’s Social Security or veterans’
benefits, inheritance rights and the ability to know and establish a bond
with both parents.
The benefits to establishing
paternity are important. Similarly, creating a legal link between a child and a
father who is not legally married to the child at issue’s mother
is a significant step towards securing father’s rights. As we stated
above, in California, an unmarried father isn’t automatically listed
on a child’s birth certificate, nor will he automatically have custody
and visitation rights upon birth of the child. Once paternity is established,
however, then a natural birth father would have the ability to ask court
in California for custody and visitation rights to preserve his relationship
with a child born out of wedlock.
Paternity Means Fatherhood,” by California Department of Child Support Services, published at
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