Kevin Qualls Family Law
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California's Declaration of Paternity form

California law gives unmarried mothers and all dads the right to sign a Declaration of Paternity form. By signing this form, unmarried couples who are parents of a child can skip the process of going to court, getting DNA testing and obtaining a legal order establishing paternity; the Declaration itself makes the man who signed it the legal father of the child.

While this might sound convenient, Orange County parents, but men in particular, need to be aware of the consequences of signing this form, as not being so aware can lead to serious family law problems down the road.

For one, the Declaration of Paternity does not, in and of itself, set up child support, custody, and parenting time. If a mother wants to collect child support from the child's father, she must first go through the usual legal process. Likewise, if a dad wants custody of his child or just wants a court-ordered parenting time schedule so he can see his child, he will need to go to court.

On the other hand, because the Declaration of Paternity does operate as a legally binding document, parents who do wind up going to court over custody or support are not going to be able to claim at that point that the man who signed the Declaration is not legally the father of the child and thus not legally entitled to visits or legally required to pay support.

A man who has any doubts about signing the Declaration should not do so, at least not without talking with an experienced lawyer who has familiarity with family law. Even though he is able to rescind the Declaration up to 60 days after signing it, he may not realize until it is too late that he has claimed responsible for a child that is not his.

After these 60 days, the man will have to prove he was somehow tricked or deceived in to signing the document, which is not always an easy task.

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Kevin Qualls Family Law
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