There is no presumption of paternity if you had a child out of wedlock in California unlike if you and the mother of your child married. Therefore, you do not have rights regarding your child, including the ability to seek custody or visitation with the child you fathered.

To enact your parental rights, you must take action to establish parentage. You may accomplish this by signing a voluntary declaration of paternity, asking for assistance from the local child support agency or going to court.

Signing a voluntary declaration of parentage

The most efficient method of establishing paternity if you and the mother of your child agree regarding the parentage of your child, is establishing yourself as the legal father of your child by signing a voluntary declaration of parentage. According to the Judicial Council of California, to establish parentage through this method, you and the mother of your child must complete and sign the necessary form at the hospital at the time of your child’s birth or later through the local child support agency, a family law facilitator, the registrar of births or the local welfare office.

 Asking the local child support agency

Should you or the mother of your child born out of wedlock request assistance through the local child support agency, the agency may initiate actions to establish parentage. This may include ordering genetic testing, which may take place before your child’s birth or after their birth.

 Going to court

As opposed to following the other available paths, you may choose to start a case to establish paternity for your child. To initiate such proceedings, you file a petition to establish parentage with the court in which your child resides. After reviewing evidence, which may include paternity test results obtained at the request of the court, a judge determines the likelihood that you fathered your child and will issue an order for paternity.