Voluntary Declaration of Parentage

A Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (or paternity) (a VDOP) is a government form two parents can sign to create a legal parent-child relationship between a child and parent. It's often signed at the hospital when a child is born, but it can be signed later. There's no cost to use the form. Once it's turned in, both parents' names can go on a child's birth certificate. 



Find out more about the VDOP

You can find out more from the State of California's Parentage Opportunity Program (POP). 

Go to POP

Why sign a VDOP? 

Signing a VDOP is free and you don't have to go to court

Using the VDOP is free. The VDOP has the same effect of a judgment (final court order) that says who your child's legal parents are. Going to court can take a lot of time and can be expensive.

When a child is born to parents who are not married, there are not automatically two legal parents. Typically, only the birth parent is the legal parent. The parent who did not give birth does not have legal parental rights. For that person to become a legal parent, the parents can either sign a VDOP or go to court to ask for an order that says they are the child's legal parent. There may also be cases when married parents using assisted reproduction want to sign a VDOP to get a legal document that says who the legal parents are.

Don't sign a VDOP if you aren't sure if you or the other person is the parent

If you sign a VDOP, you give up your right to 

  • Genetic (DNA) testing
  • A trial to decide who your child's legal parent is

If you have a trial, you have a right to a lawyer and to ask any witnesses questions.

If you sign a VDOP and then change your mind,

 you generally have a limited amount of time to cancel it. It's easiest to cancel within 60 days of signing. If you wait for longer, you may not be able to cancel it. 

How to complete a VDOP

  • Check you are eligible to sign

    To sign a VDOP, you and the other parent must be either

    • An unmarried birth parent and the only possible genetic parent
    • Two people, married or unmarried, who had their child through assisted reproduction using sperm or egg donation (or both), unless the donation was from their spouse

    There are also rules about when you can't sign a VDOP. For example, in cases of surrogacy or if a judge has already said someone else is the child's legal parent. The VDOP form you sign has more information about the rules about who can and can't sign a VDOP.

  • Sign VDOP at hospital, government agency, or notary

    Sign at the hospital when a child is born

    Parents can sign a VDOP at the hospital when the child is born. The hospital will have the form. If the parents sign at the hospital, both parents' names will go on the child’s birth certificate. The birth parent does not need to go to court to prove who the other parent of the child is.

    Sign later at a government agency

    Parents can also sign the VDOP later at certain government locations. They can sign the VDOP in front of government officials at a local child support agency, registrar of birthsFamily Law Facilitator at your local superior court, or a local Welfare office

    If the parents sign it after the child’s birth certificate has been issued, a new birth certificate can be issued with the other parent's name.

    Sign in front of a notary 

    You can ask for the form to be sent to you by mail by e-mailing askpop@dcss.ca.gov, or you can get it at any of the above government locations.  You and the other parent can then sign it in front of a notary public. There's usually a fee to use a notary.

    If the parents sign it after the child’s birth certificate has been issued, a new birth certificate can be issued with the other parent's name.

  • File VDOP with DCSS

    Once the declaration is signed, the form must be filed with the California Department of Child Support Services Parentage Opportunity Program (POP). The form is not valid unless filed.

    If you want a copy of the filed VDOP, send a completed request for a certified copy of the VDOP to:

     DCSS — POP Unit
     P.O. Box 419070
     Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-9070

Once the VDOP is filed, you are the legal parents. If you later need a judge to make orders about child custody, visitation (parenting time) or support, you can file a case with the court. 

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