The state of California will not recognize a man as the father of a child if the parties are not married. For a court to make a child custody order for unmarried couples, a party has to file a paternity suit. A paternity suit is the method by which a court can recognize the man as a father and make orders thereon. If there is doubt regarding paternity, then either party can request DNA testing. Otherwise, if there is no question of paternity, the voluntary declaration of paternity signed at the hospital at the time of the child's birth can be used to persuasively demonstrate that the man is the father.
After signing the voluntary declaration of paternity, the man can still contest paternity by requesting a DNA test. In order to request a DNA test, one of the parties, after filing a petition to establish paternity, will have to ask the court to order that the man take a DNA test. In the meantime, the court will most likely not order visitation pending the results.
Establishing paternity will affect many important and fundamental parental rights, primarily child support, custodial time, visitation, and even your attorneys fees.
Paternity can also be established by the Department of Child Support Services.