An Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) is a legal document in which a child’s father is identified by the unmarried mother and father. If the AOP meets the requirement of District law, it establishes the child’s father without the need to go to court. The relevant District law is DC Official Code § 16-909.01(a)(1).
The easiest way to complete the AOP is to do it at the hospital or birthing center after the child is born. Staff there will help parents complete the AOP and notarize it. They also will file the AOP with Vital Records Division of the Department of Health. If you child is already born, you can go to either Vital Records Division or the Child Support Services Division. At both locations, staff will explain your rights and responsibilities, help you complete the AOP, notarize it, and have it filed.
Following is some helpful information:
- Both parents must swear the information on the AOP form is true.
- Parents will be asked to provide photo identification.
- No blood test is required.
- Signing an AOP is easy and free.
- Both parents must sign the AOP in the presence of a notary public.
- The AOP must be notarized by the notary public who witnesses the parents’ signatures.
- The form must be fully completed, typed or hand-written in ink, and legible.
- It is possible to rescind an AOP, but there is a time limit.
- The parents’ marital status and the circumstances of the child’s birth must permit them to establish paternity through an AOP. Generally, this means that the child must be born in the District and the parents must not be married or in a registered domestic partnership.
- Further, if the mother was married when the child was born, she cannot complete an AOP with another man. For example, if Susan was married to John at the time her baby was born even though Robert was the biological father, Susan and Robert are not allowed to sign an AOP for the baby. Both parents must be given written and oral information about alternatives to, legal consequences of, and the rights and responsibilities that arise from signing the AOP. The oral information may be given through a video or audio media.
A man should not sign an AOP unless he is sure that he is the child’s biological father. If you are not sure whether you are the father, have genetic testing done before signing. Private testing costs at least $300. If there is a child support case opened, testing can be done through CSSD. If the results show a man is the father, there is a nominal fee associated with the genetic testing. If the results show a man is not the father, there is no cost.
There are legal consequences to signing the AOP, including being responsible for the child’s financial support, and those legal consequences should only be taken on by the child’s biological father. If you know that you are not the father, do not sign the AOP. If you still want to be the father, you can discuss adoption with an attorney.
There is no fee to complete an AOP. However, the Vital Records Division charges a fee to get a copy of a child’s birth certificate.
Visitation and Custody
Signing the AOP does not guarantee either parent visitation or custody. But a man who does not sign the AOP or otherwise have paternity established has no legal right to visit or get custody of his child.
Any parent who is not living with his or her child (who is under 21 years of age in DC) can be ordered to pay child support. If a signed AOP exists and the father does not live with the child, the father named on the AOP can be ordered to pay child support.
Social Security Number
Persons with no social security number should write "999-99-9999" in the space on the AOP.
Neither the father nor the mother have to be US citizens or in the US legally to sign the AOP.
A notary public (or notary) is a person who is authorized by the District to “notarize” documents. The notary verifies that the person who signs a document is the person identified in the document. The notary does this by looking at the person’s identification and witnessing the person sign the document. An AOP is not considered complete unless both parents’ signatures are notarized.
The notary public will ask for proof of identify. It is up to the notary to decide sufficient proof of identity. Generally, any government-issued identification is acceptable, including a driver’s license, a state-issued identity card, a passport, school identification, or a military ID. The identification should be current, as a notary may decide not to accept an identification that has expired. Utility bills may not be used to prove a person’s identity.
CSSD will work with military families in getting an AOP for a child. For individuals stationed overseas, CSSD may send written and audiovisual materials, arrange to speak with potential parents and answer questions, and request that a commanding officer or a chaplain witness the signatures.