Common Questions About California Birth Certificates

When it comes to a birth certificate, California is similar to most states. Acquiring an authorized copy requires you to file with the Department of Public Health and will only be released to the owner of the certificate, a close relative or by court order. Alternatively, copies can be obtained through third-party services. Regardless, the necessity of getting an authorized copy usually leads to many questions. These are some of the most common questions about birth certificates and their simplest answers.


Why Are Birth Certificates Important?


The rules surrounding these documents vary by state, but in general they are required by law. In the state of California, birth certificates are covered under the Health and Safety Code Section 102425. This law requires that all newborns in the state file a certificate and outlines what information is required. To consider the question a bit more deeply, the law exists to track vital information for the state. Primarily, birth certificates help the government keep records on common health issues relating to newborns. That information is used in health studies and to inform government programs with relevant statistics.


What Is on the Certificate?


There is a fair pile of data collected on any given certificate. Besides the newborn’s name, place of birth, date of birth and relevant health information, the certificate will also contain details related to the parents. This can include the parents’ race, occupation, education, Social Security Number and address. All of the information is kept confidential. The presence of each detail is required by law with the exception of parent’s information, but the state of California still strongly recommends reporting those details for the sake of their records.

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How Can Birth Certificates Be Changed?


Mistakes happen. In this case, correcting them can be a challenge. Any amendment has to be approved through the court system, usually as a direct court order. There is an amendment process to follow. The full details are available on California’s Department of Public Health (CDPH) website. The time it takes for an amendment to process varies by case. The hassle is great enough that many consider leaving mistakes, but that can lead to complications. Even for newborns, incorrect information on the certificate can create problems when traveling by airline, applying for a Social Security Number or obtaining a passport.


If you are trying to get a copy of a birth certificate, you’ll need notarized documentation and the necessary processing fee. Documentation can usually be mailed, emailed or faxed. Turnaround times will vary by application and can take weeks.

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