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 childsup.ca.gov.