Maine Child Support: Division of Support Enforcement & Recovery (DSER)
What is a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity?
A voluntary acknowledgment of paternity (AOP) is a legal form that, when signed and notarized, says that the man is the legal father of a child. If a mother is not married at the time a child is conceived, during the pregnancy or at the time of birth, signing a voluntary AOP legally establishes the child's father without having to go to court.
Why should paternity be acknowledged at the time of birth?
- The earlier in a child's life paternity is acknowledged, the more secure his/her future may be.
- This service is free at the hospital.
- It is the most convenient time, since the Notary Public and the forms are together in one place. Also, the hospital takes care of mailing completed forms to the Maine Office of Vital Records.
It is important to sign a voluntary AOP as soon as possible. While waiting, a child's rights are unprotected. This means that if one or both of the parents are injured or die before the voluntary AOP is signed and filed, a child may not have certain legal rights.
Both parents do not have to sign the form at the same time. However, parents need to sign and have their signatures notarized to make a voluntary AOP valid.
If the father is unable to sign a voluntary AOP while the mother and child are still in the hospital or birthing center, the father's half can be signed and notarized later at a different location.
No, a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity is not required. If a mother is afraid that the father will harm her or her child, she should first take steps to protect herself and her child. In this situation, she should speak to a social worker or contact a shelter for battered women about her concerns, prior to providing the identity of the father. For emergencies and assistance to battered women, call your local police or directory assistance for referrals to local family violence shelters.
In Maine, a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form can be signed at the following:
- at the hospital at the time of birth - free
- at any municipal clerk's office - notarization fee
- at the Maine Office of Vital Records - $60.00 fee
- in front of any authorized Notary Public - notarization fee
- A voluntary acknowledgment of paternity means that parents freely admit who is the biological father of the child. If you do not know who is the father of a child, you should seek genetic/DNA testing.
- Parents have the right to talk with an attorney before signing a voluntary AOP form.
- By signing a voluntary AOP, you give a child a legal record identifying each parent. This enables a child to access benefits.
- In Maine, a voluntary AOP does not involve custody or visitation rights. Parents must go to court for these.
- Parents have 60 days after signing a voluntary AOP to change their minds and remove it with a rescission form. Once the 60 days have passed, the voluntary AOP can only be removed by going to court and proving that it was signed on the basis of fraud, duress or a material mistake of fact. Recission forms are available at the Maine Office of Vital Records, municipal clerk's offices or DSER Offices.
- By signing a voluntary AOP, both parents are legally responsible for financially supporting their child until at least age 18. Parents may also be required to pay for past medical expenses, birth expenses and child support.
It is against the law to sign a voluntary AOP knowing that the man signing is not the biological father of the child.
- Before signing, parents need to provide picture identifications and their social security numbers. (Maine Picture ID's can be purchased at all Motor Vehicle Registry Offices.)
- Before signing the voluntary AOP, parents must sign a statement that they understand their rights and responsibilities.
- Signing a voluntary AOP form is complete only when parents sign in the presence of a Notary Public or a municipal clerk. (Note: Each parent can sign the document and have their name notarized at separate times and/or places.)
- Parents need to proofread the completed form, making sure that all names are spelled correctly, each parent's place of residence is given (not their mailing address), and that all information is correct.
- The voluntary AOP form is mailed to the Maine Office of Vital Records.