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A Free Guide To Establishing Parentage In California



Parentage cases, or paternity cases, are cases to determine the legal parents of a child. Establishing parentage means obtaining a court order that states who a child’s legal parents are.

Why does parentage need to be established?

When the parents of a child are married, there is usually no question about parentage. The law will assume that the married couple is the child’s legal parents. (Cal. Fam. Code §7540) When the parents of a child are not married, the child has no legal father until parentage is established. This means that the father of the child has no legal rights or responsibilities for the child. This is when parentage needs to be established legally. This will make sure that the father of a child gets to see his child, make decisions about the child’s life, and provide for the child financially through child support.

How is parentage established?

In order to obtain child custody, visitation and support orders, parentage must first be established to determine who the child’s legal parents are. The child’s legal parents are the ones with legal rights and responsibilities to care for the child. Parentage can be established by both parties signing a voluntary Declaration of Paternity. A voluntary Declaration of Paternity governmental form that, when signed by both parents, establishes them as the child’s legal parents. The form must be signed voluntarily. This is typically done when the parents are not married. The other way to establish parentage is by getting a court order. This can include filing a Petition for Custody and Visitation, which is then followed by the court making orders to determine who the legal parents are. This can involve the court ordering genetic testing to be done by the parents and the child. If the genetic testing determines that the husband or presumed father is not the father of the child, the question of paternity will be dismissed and resolved accordingly (Cal. Fam. Code §7541). In any civil proceeding where paternity is a relevant legal fact, under California Family Code §7551, a court may order the parents and child to submit to genetic testing under its own initiative.

    When is someone presumed the parent?

     A person may be presumed the child’s other parent when:
    • He was married to the child’s mother when the child was conceived or born
    • He attempted to marry the mother and the child was conceived or born during this time
    • He married the mother after the child’s birth and agreed to have his name on the birth certificate
    • He welcomed the child into his home and treated the child as though it were his own

    What happens after parentage is established?

    Once parentage has been established, the legal parents must financially support the child. It is a crime in California for a legal parent to fail to support their child. Legal parents will also have the right to get custody or visitation rights regarding the child.


    These instructions provide the basic information you need to begin the legal process to establish paternity. They are NOT designed to provide you with legal advice and DO NOT take the place of a consultation with a lawyer. However, if you follow these instructions, you will be able to represent yourself and begin the process.

    Important Facts

    If you and the other parent were never married, you will need to prove parentage (or “paternity”). A paternity action legally establishes the parent/child relationship.
    • Even if you and the other party signed a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity, you still need to prove parentage.
    You must establish the parent/child relationship before the court can make any orders on:
    • Custody,
    • Visitation, and/or
    • Child support

    Step-By-Step Guide

    Please download the following guide for a comprehensive list of steps, forms, and form instructions. Continue on below for a high-level overview of the establishing parentage process.Download our guide for a comprehensive list of forms and instructions.


    Pick up the packet of forms needed at the Clerk’s Office of the Los Angeles Superior Court OR print the packet of forms needed from courts.ca.gov.

      Forms & Copies

      The Petitioner and Respondent remain the same throughout the entire case.
      • Petitioner: The person who began the case by filing the first court documents.
      • Respondent: The person who responded to the first court documents.
      Fill out required forms listed in guide above.
      • Make two (2) copies of all completed documents and arrange them in the order listed. You should have a total of 3 copies: the original and 2 copies (a copy for yourself and one for the other party).

        Filing & Court Costs

        Take the original and copies of the completed forms to the Clerk in the Clerk’s office of the Los Angeles Superior Court.
        • The Clerk will keep the originals and stamp the two copies with a case number.
        • The Clerk will then file the forms, date them, and return them to you.
        • *The stamped and dated forms are called “conformed.”
        Pay the Filing Fee.
        • You will need to pay a filing fee (which is currently $435.00).
        • If you are unable to pay the filing fee, you can apply for a “Fee Waiver.” You can get a “Fee Waiver” application at 1) the Resource Center for Self-Represented Litigants, 2) the Filing Clerk’s Office, or 3) on the Internet.
        • *You must file the completed “Fee Waiver” forms at the same time you file your forms.

          Service Package

          Once you have filed the original forms, the next step is to give the Respondent the “service package.”THE SERVICE PACKAGE MUST CONTAIN THE FOLLOWING FORMS:  One Copy of: 
          1. UCF 001: Notice of Other Cases Involving Minor Children
          2. FL-200: Petition to Establish Parental Relationship (include any of the attachments used)
          3. FL-200: Summons
          4. FAM 020: Family Law Case Cover Sheet
          5. FL-105: Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
            • Include Form FL-105(A) if there are more than two children of the relationship
          Blank Forms:
          1. FL-205: Response to Petition to Establish Parental Relationship
          2. FL-105: Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement and Act
            • Include Form FL-105(A) if there are more than two children of the relationship.
          3. FL-335: Proof of Service by Mail
          1. PERSONAL SERVICE Have an adult over the age of 18 personally hand/serve the “service package” to the Respondent.
          Sheriff’s Department
          • The Sheriff’s Department will hand/serve the “service package” to the Respondent for you for a $30.00 fee.
          • The Sheriff’s Department is located in room 525 of the 5th floor of the Los Angeles Superior Court.
          • *If you have a fee waiver, you can take an original copy to the Sheriff’s Department to have the fee waived.
          2. NOTICE OF ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF RECEIPT *USE THIS METHOD ONLY IF THE OTHER PARENT WILL SIGN IT. Have an adult over the age of 18 (NOT YOU) mall the “service package” to the Respondent.
          • The adult must sign and complete the FL-115 “Proof of Service of Summons” form.
          • The original of this form will be filed along with the original “Notice and Acknowledgement Receipt” signed and dated by the other parent.
          • *The Notice must include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the return of the “Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt to you.
          3. CERTIFIED MAIL TO OUT OF STATE ADDRESS Have an adult over the age of 18 (NOT YOU) mail the “service package” to the Respondent. Registered or certified mail with a return receipt requested.
            • The person that mails the “service package” for you must complete and sign the FL-115 “Proof of Service of Summons” form.
            • The return receipt, signed by the other party, must be attached to the original “Proof of Service of Summons” and filed with the court.
          4. SERVICE BY PUBLICATION WITHIN THE STATE *YOU CAN ONLY DO THIS OPTION WHEN YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THE OTHER PARENT LIVES OR WORKS. This option requires an application, Declaration of Diligent Search and Court Order.After serving the other party, the person who served the party must fill out the FL-115 “Proof of Service of Summons” form. To completely fill out this form. the person who served the party must: 
          1. Check off/List all the forms in the service package
          2. Fill out the date, time and location of service
          3. The person who served the party must include their address, print their name and sign at the bottom. 
          Make two (2) copies of the completed “Proof of Summons.” Take the original and two (2) copies to file with the filing clerk in Room 426 of the Los Angeles Superior Court.


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