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Establishing “parental relationship” means establishing that two unmarried people are the parents of a child or children. Once this is done, issues such as child custody and visitation, child support and injunctive orders may then be addressed.

A “parental relationship” action is a legal proceeding that allows unmarried parents to resolve issues involving their children. This action begins by one party filing a Petition with the court. The party filing the action is the Petitioner and the other party is the Respondent.

These actions do not always involve a dispute regarding parentage. Sometimes the parties can agree to the fact they are the parents of the child. If however, parental relationship is an issue then it must be handled prior to addressing other matters such as support and visitation.


Parents who are not married when a child is born can sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity either before they leave the hospital or after. The Declaration of Paternity is a legal document that, when signed by both parents, says the man is the natural father of the child.

The parents can sign a declaration at the hospital or can get forms at their county:

  • Department of Child Support Services
  • Registrar of births, or
  • Family law facilitator’s office.

If the parents sign this document at the hospital, the father’s name will go on the child’s birth certificate and the mother does not have to go to court to prove paternity.

Cases involving parental relations are confidential (NOT PUBLIC FILES) and only those parties involved and those possessing letters granting approval from the parties involved will be allowed access to the files.


If the parents sign the declaration after the child’s birth certificate has been issued, a new birth certificate can be issued with the father’s name.

After both parents sign the declaration and it is filed with the California Department of Child Support Services it legally establishes a parent-child relationship between the father and the child. Once paternity is established the father will have the legal rights and financial responsibilities of a parent under California law. Signing this form will give the father parental rights to seek custody or visitation or to be consulted about any other court proceeding such as adoption of the child.

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