The Paternity Opportunity Program (or POP) was established in California
in 1995 creating a simpler system for a biological mother and unmarried
father to establish paternity. The program was created to be in compliance
with a federal mandate (Title 42 United States Code (USC) 666(a)(5)(C)).
The California Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) operates the program.
Since its inception 23 years ago, POP has helped almost three and one half
million people establish paternity.
POP is a voluntary program for an unmarried mother and biological father
to establish legal paternity. There is no charge for this program, and
the program significantly saves time and money in establishing paternity
than going through the court system. Note: A signed CS 909, Declaration
of Paternity has the same force and effect as a judgment for paternity
issued by a court.
In California, there are only two ways to establish paternity for unmarried
parents: either through the court system or through POP.
Since POP is a voluntary program, there are no DNA tests or other scientific
means to establish paternity. If either parent is not sure of the child’s
paternity, then POP should not be used.
At all hospitals where births take place, the CS 909 form is offered to
all parents. The form is also available at “…all local child support agency offices, offices of local registrars of
births and deaths, courts, and county welfare departments within this state…” (California Family Code Section 7571f)
If the form is not signed at the time of the child’s birth, the CS
909 form can still be used to establish paternity later. According to
DCSS: “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.”
The signing of the CS 909 form must be witnessed. By California law, there
are only certain people authorized to witness the signature, such as “…the
family law facilitator of a local court, the hospital where a child is
born, the local registrar of births and 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…”
After signing and returning the CS 909, processing the form by DCSS usually
takes two to three weeks.
For additional information regarding POP, or the California Department
of Child Support Services, visit their website at